FCA submissions to government, regulators and others.
The National Legal Assistance Partnership (NLAP) is an agreement between the State, Territory and Federal Governments about the funding and oversight of legal assistance services. Funding is provided through the NLAP to legal aid commissions, community legal centres and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community legal services. In accordance with the agreement, the NLAP is being independently reviewed. Financial counsellors often work closely with consumer lawyers in services funded by the NLAP. Our submission describes the complementary roles of financial counsellors, capability workers and consumer lawyers and how each supports the other.
Joint financial counselling sector submission responding to five focus areas: giving the community sector the respect it deserves, providing grants that reflect the real cost of service delivery, providing longer grant agreements, ensuring grants flow to a wider diversity of organisations and partnering with trusted community organisations with strong local links. Our sector very much welcomes this discussion paper and the potential for re-setting the relationship between government and the community sector.
The submission has three parts: Financial Counselling Australia Submission Federal Inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm (House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs), 20 March 2020. Additional submission: Gambling Consumer Statutory duty of care (question on notice) Additional submission: Gambling data vault (question on notice)
Additional submission to Federal Inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm
Additional submission to Federal Inquiry into online gambling and its impacts on those experiencing gambling harm
Joint submission (led by Consumer Action) about proposed changes to AFCA’s rules. Amongst other things, the submission supports expanding AFCA’s rules to exclude paid representatives that do not act in a consumer’s best interest, increasing potential payments for non-financial loss and allowing AFCA to consider complaints where there has been a full and final settlement if the financial services firm acted unfairly. The submission also makes recommendations about the circumstances in which a complainant may be excluded.
This submission describes the cost of living pressures facing people seeking financial counselling support, which is showing up in increasing demand for financial counselling. The rising cost of living has a disproportionate affect on people with the least economic resources. The submission recommends further increases in the rates of JobSeeker and pension payments to prevent poverty, reviewing the supermarket unit pricing code to help people make informed shopping choices, regulation of Buy Now, Pay Later providers and wage advance products under the credit laws, waiving of persistent credit card debts by financial institutions and adequate funding for financial counselling.
Joint submission from FCA and state and territory financial counselling peak bodies for the inquiry into the extent and nature of poverty in Australia. Poverty affects many financial counselling clients and our submission is based on these casework experiences. Due to ongoing structural issues, such as geography, stagnant or low wage growth, cost of living increases, insecure work and the erosion in the financial value of income support mechanisms, the face of poverty is changing. Unfortunately, as we know, inequality is increasing. The submission includes recommendations for the inquiry to consider across income support, universal basic income, housing affordability, consumer credit and funding for financial counselling services.
Joint consumer group submission (led by PIAC) describing the elements of an outcomes-based approach to consumer protection in the National Energy Customer Framework.
Drawing on the casework experience of the Small Business Debt Helpline (www.sbdh.org.au) the submission notes that the both Small Business Restructuring Reforms and Simplified Liquidation Reforms have had little impact. Our recommendations include that director guarantees be bound within restructuring proposal terms, the establishment of a government-funded corporate winding-up service operated by ASIC, expanding the limit on unfair preference claims of $30K against unrelated creditors from simplified liquidation to all creditor voluntary liquidations and court liquidations, and a voucher system providing access to accounting, business and legal advice for vulnerable small businesses.
Submission to: Treasury Joint submission on behalf of 22 consumer organisations who make up the Close Lending Loopholes Coalition, including Australia’s leading consumer advocates, charities, community groups, legal centres, family violence organisations, and financial counselling practitioners. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) credit products exploit loopholes in Australia’s credit law to…
Joint submission (led by Consumer Action) recommending that the Royal Commission refer the conduct of debt collectors Milton Graham and ARL to the ACCC for investigation. The submission argues that these companies, which were engaged by the commonwealth to collect debt as part of the Robodebt scheme, breached the law by making various assertions about the consequences of non-payment, including threatening legal action, garnishee or departure orders preventing overseas travel. In fact, these consequences were either not possible, intended or under consideration.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Choice) arguing that commissions in the sale of life insurance, general insurance and consumer credit insurance should be banned, as these create conflicts of interest that lead to poor quality advice. The proposal from the Quality of Advice review to instead improve disclosure does not address this fundamental problem.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action). The submission strongly supports the passage of Schedule 4 of the Bill which will make consumer credit leases and payday loans safer forms of credit. The key parts of the Bill address the costs of these products which too often trap people in a cycle of debt and cause extensive financial hardship. The Bill would cap the amount of income that a person could spend at 10% of net income for each product (potentially 20% in total). For consumer leases, the Bill would also introduce a monthly cap of 4% on the fees that can be charged. The Bill also includes anti-avoidance provisions.
This is a joint submission from the financial counselling sector. The submission includes a number of recent case studies from financial counsellors about the harm clients experience with payday loans and consumer leases. (The financial counselling sector is also part of the joint consumer group submission on this Bill – see other listing).
Joint submission from the financial counselling sector in response to proposals to move the current licensing exemptions applying to financial counselling agencies from ASIC legislative instruments into the primary law and regulations. The current licensing exemptions exempt financial counselling agencies from having to hold an Australian Financial Services Licence or an Australian Credit Licence, as long as the agency meets certain requirements. We support the policy intent of the proposed rationalisation, but recommend that the wording in the current ASIC instruments is replicated exactly in the new regulations, rather than introducing new terms. The submission also supports the proposal that rural financial counselling agencies are provided with an AFSL exemption.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Choice) in response to the Quality of Advice Review – Consultation Paper – Proposals for Reform (authored by Michelle Levy). The consumer group submission does not support the key proposals for reform. In particular, we recommend that the requirement for financial advisors to provide advice that is in the best interests of their clients is retained. The safe harbour provisions however could be recast as indicative behaviours of compliance. We also recommend that people the licensing requirements for people providing general advice are retained.
Unlike consumer lending, which is regulated by the National Credit Law, there are relatively few protections for small businesses when they borrow money. The submission therefore supports AFIA’s development of the Online Small Business Lenders Code of Practice. However it argues the Code and its governance require significant strengthening.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights) into the application of the Consumer Data Right (CDR) to non-bank lenders. Non bank lenders include consumer lease providers, payday lenders, BNPL providers, wage advance companies and others. Extending the CDR to these companies would allow these businesses to circumvent the credit reporting regime and facilitate targeting of high cost finance to people in hardship. We are extremely concerned that the paper does not adequately consider these risks. We recommend a series of reforms including limiting CDR to companies that are part of the comprehensive credit reporting regime and an opt-in consent for jointly held accounts.
Joint submission with Consumer Action, to the United States Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, who like regulators in the United Kingdom, are examining the BNPL industry and the regulatory framework applying to it. BNPL is effectively an Australian invention (via Afterpay) so we are well placed to comment on its impact. The submission makes the point that the Australian Government has so far taken a hands-off approach, relying on industry self-regulation. As a result, a proportion of people are being harmed by the BNPL product. Given that many of the same players operate in both Australia and the US, we recommend that US legislatures introduce adequate safeguards so that BNPL is provided safely.
Joint submission from the financial counselling sector in response to three proposed changes to the bankruptcy laws. We support a reduction of the bankruptcy period from three years to one year (subject to safeguards), argue strongly against changing the current eligibility criteria for debt agreements and support proposals to rein in untrustworthy advisors.
Joint consumer submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) contains numerous recommendations to improve the current code. As currently drafted it is impenetrable and needs to be rewritten in simpler and clearer language. We recommend that it be broken up into principles-based consumer provisions and technical industry-facing provisions. There is so much wrong with the Code, that it is difficult to summarise the over 40 recommendations. They cover statute barred debt, family violence, the code oversight body, better timeframes, free credit reports, improving the corrections process and the perverse situation where shopping around for a credit product adversely affects a credit report.
This submission from FCA and the State/Territory financial counselling associations supports the removal of digital retail search fees, such as those to access details about a company such as the names of directors. In a digital age, the cost of these searches is extremely low, and the public benefits would outweigh these costs. Financial counsellors are increasingly helping clients who operate small businesses and agencies cannot afford the costs of these searches. Some clients are not sure if they are directors or not and financial counsellors also assist people who have been coerced into becoming a director. If the Government does not decide to make these searches free, we recommend that financial counsellors are exempted from having to pay these costs. There is already a precedent, with journalists for example, having free access.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) arguing that ASIC should allow Class Order 14/41 to expire in March 2022. The effect of the class order is that credit providers that agree to vary a contract because a person is experiencing financial hardship do not need to notify the person in writing, as long as the arrangement is for less than 90 days (described as a “simple arrangement”). The submission argues that the continuation of the class order will be confusing because of changes to the credit reporting system that require notification to people about financial hardship reporting as well as changes to industry practice.
Submission from the financial counselling sector to ASIC supporting the proposed use of their product intervention powers that would have the effect of stopping Cigno and associated companies using business models that take advantage of exemptions in the law and sees them charging consumers fees well above the maximum allowable under regulated credit. The submission draws on the casework experiences of financial counsellors and points out the substantial detriment these business models are having on people.
Joint submission from the Consumer Action Law Centre and FCA to HM Treasury in the United Kingdom. The purpose is to share our experience of the Australian regulatory environment, where BNPL operates outside the credit laws that apply to other lending products. This is a similar situation to that in the UK. A key difference in Australia is that the industry here has developed a self-regulatory Code of Practice. The submission outlines the deficiencies with the Code and why it is not an substitute for adequate regulation, includes some observations about other aspects of the operation of BNPL in Australia and makes suggestions about the design of proportionate regulation. The submission is informed by the casework experiences of financial counsellors (called debt advisors in the UK) and consumer lawyers who are increasingly seeing clients who are experiencing various forms of harm when using the product.
Joint submission from Financial Rights and FCA (Financial Rights as the lead author) responding to an October 2021 discussion paper from the Attorney-General’s Department considering the scope of the Privacy Act and if its enforcement mechanisms remain fit for purpose. The submission supports proposed amendments to the definition of personal information. The submission argues that the exemption for small businesses from the Privacy Act should be removed including that the Act apply to the new category of “trusted advisors” for the purposes of the consumer data right. (Financial counsellors are trusted advisors.) The submission also argues for the consent provisions to be strengthened, that pro-privacy default settings be enabled by default and that there should be a right to erasure. Complaints handling should be undertaken by the creation of a new body, a Federal Privacy Ombudsman.
This is a joint submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Indigenous Affairs Inquiry into corporate engagement with Indigenous consumers. We outline areas where corporations can improve how they work with First Nations people and communities including examples of best practice in a number of areas.
FCA submission with key recommendations to the government around funding, grants and data collection.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Choice) responding to a consultation on regional banking. The submission recommends that banks commit to a moratorium on branch closures, that in towns with limited or no banking services the banking industry commit to expanding mobile banking and that every town in Australia has at least one fee-free option to withdraw cash. The Taskforce is also encouraged to meet with First Nations communities to understand the particular issues they face.
Joint consumer group submission (led by CHOICE) on the CLSR and FAR. The submission again makes the argument that the scope of the CSLR needs to be expanded to include all financial products that fall under the jurisdiction of AFCA, including funeral expenses policies and managed investment schemes as well as all court and tribunal decisions. The compensation cap for the scheme should be at the same level as AFCA. The FAR needs to extend to executives and senior managers, there must be meaningful consequences for people who break the law, all variable remuneration should be subject to clawback not just a portion and there should be a requirement for executives and senior managers to treat customers fairly.
Joint consumer group submission (led by the Consumers’ Federation of Australia) on proposed changes to the ePayments Code. Our submission expresses disappointment that ASIC is planning to reduce consumer protection in relation to scams both in relation to mistaken payments and unauthorised transactions. These proposals run counter to ASIC’s 2021-25 strategic plan which include a commitment to reduce the risk of harm to consumers from scams.
The ACMA has released a draft Statement of Expectations for the telecommunications industry, inviting comment on the five priorities it contains. The aim of the Statement is to improve outcomes for consumers, particularly people who are vulnerable. Our submission notes that the very fact the Statement is necessary is symptomatic of broader problems with the telecommunications industry which in turn reflect the light touch regulatory framework. The submission argues that the Statement should be an enforceable regulatory instrument. Telecommunication companies need to address the barriers that mean people are not being treated fairly, including continuing problems with mis-selling and inadequate hardship processes.
Joint consumer group submission (led by CHOICE) on the Financial Accountability Regime Bill 2021. As drafted, the law will not work to hold finance executives to account. The Bill needs to be strengthened to: expand the scope to senior managers, reinstate civil penalties for breaches (which was the Government’s original intention), bolster the deferred remuneration obligations so that all variable rem could be clawed back and impose an obligation on executives and senior managers to treat customers fairly.
Joint consumer group submission (led by CHOICE). The submission argues that an effective Compensation Scheme of Last Resort should have broad coverage so that it includes any financial service or product that comes within the jurisdiction of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority. It is particularly important that the CSLR cover funeral expense policies managed investment schemes and debt management firms. The compensation cap for the CSLR should be the same as that for AFCA.
Joint submission, led by Women’s Legal Service Victoria, supporting the passage of legislation that will allow information about superannuation assets to be provided directly to the Family Court by the ATO during property settlements. This will be of significant benefit to women leaving situations of financial abuse and domestic violence, where perpetrators actively seek to hide assets.
FCA welcomes the opportunity to respond to this review of the Code. FCA supports the continuation of compulsory unit pricing, however, we believe the Review and Exposure Draft should seize this opportunity to address inherent flaws in the existing Code as this will benefit both consumers and the wider economy.
We echo the concerns of our colleagues across the community sector about the punitive aspects of ParentsNext. The program can exacerbate the financial issues facing single parents. Between July 2018 and February 2021, over 52,000 parents had their payments suspended, for an average of 5 days. Just over 1,000 parents had their payments cancelled. Many of these people would have faced a financial crisis as a result. This increases demand for emergency relief services, including food. Some people will have gone into debt to cover the financial shortfall, including high cost payday loans. The problem is that ParentsNext is a one size fits all program. Instead what is needed is targeted, strength-based support.
While gambling is a legitimate form of entertainment for many Australians, gambling should not be funded by credit. We therefore support a prohibition on the use of credit cards, including via e-wallets, for digital gambling.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action) on the review of the operation of AFCA since its establishment. Consumer groups strongly support AFCA as providing access to justice for people in dispute with financial services providers. AFCA is meeting its statutory objectives to be fair, efficient, timely and independent.
This is the financial counselling sector submission in response to the proposed increase in the rate of JobSeeker. The Government’s increase to income support payments in March 2020 lifted hundreds of thousands of Australians out of poverty. One result was a sharp decline in people seeking the support of financial counsellors. This Bill will reverse much of the progress that Australia has made to alleviate poverty, returning thousands of Australians to instead living below the poverty line. These people will struggle to stay afloat in an economy that doesn’t have enough jobs for the number of people out of work. We urge the Parliament to permanently increase income support payments, including JobSeeker and Youth Allowance. We stand with the Australian Council of Social Service in calling for a permanent increase to lift payments to at least $65 per day.
Submission from the Consumers Federation of Australia (endorsed by FCA and a number of other consumer organisations) in relation to the ePayments Code. The submission raises concerns about screen scraping, that the code does not address scams and inadequate checks from ADIs to reduce mistaken payments. It is positive that the code will allow for consumer complaints to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) response to a discussion paper from the Federal Attorney-General’s Department. The submission recommends that the default period for bankruptcy should reduce to 1 year (and if so, changes should also be made to the credit reporting system), that charging fees for bankruptcy advice should be banned, the Bankruptcy Act should be amended so that people who later experience further financial hardship can apply to reduce their contributions and that all small business lenders should be members of AFCA. The submission also makes a raft of recommendations in relation to debt agreements, including that the income, debt and asset thresholds should not increase, that the term limit remain the same and that bankrupts be allowed to keep compensation awarded by AFCA. Other recommendations includes that payments from TPD insurance should be protected in bankruptcy, bankrupts should be able to retain accumulated savings, once they have met their income contributions and the fees charged by bankruptcy trustees should be subject to a review as well as greater auditing and enforcement from AFSA. Financial counselling should be available in all Federal Circuit Courts (based on the approach in the Melbourne registry).
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) in response to proposed changes to the bankruptcy regulations. The submission argues that the proposed modernisation of the list of household property available for the payment of debts does not in fact represent modern lifestyles. Trustees in bankruptcy should not be taking household items from debtors and their families unless those items are uniquely valuable, such as antiques. Alternatively, if the Government does not accept this, the proposed list needs to expand to home entertainment equipment, sufficient computing devices for all members of the household and one mobile phone for each household member. Thresholds for tools of trade and motor vehicles should be set at reasonable values. Alternatively, they should be increased to $5,000 for tools of trade and $15,000 for motor vehicles (both should be indexed). The submission also makes recommendations about the duration of listings on the NPII and the regulation of informal debt agreements.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Financial Rights Legal Centre) into the Privacy Act. The submission’s recommendations include a right to privacy, overhaul of notification and consent processes, higher privacy standards, a right to erasure, a statutory tort for breaches of privacy and specific protections for children.
Financial counsellors strongly oppose the Government’s proposals to wind back Australia’s responsible lending laws. The draft legislation is fundamentally flawed and not capable of adequate amendment to address our concerns.
This is the joint submission from the Stop The Debt Trap Alliance a coalition of consumer advocacy organisations advocating for adequate regulation of payday loans and consumer leases. This submission supports the legislation introduced to the SA Parliament by the Attorney-General, the Hon Vicki Chapman that will introduce cost caps on both products. The legislation is based on that originally planned by the Federal Government in 2017, but not introduced. Instead the Federal Government is proposing a watered down version of reforms (as announced on 25th September 2020). We urge the SA Parliament to pass this bill.
This is the joint consumer group submission about the TIO’s terms of reference, led by WEstJustice. This supplementary submission focuses on the important role the TIO can play in relation to addressing systemic issues.
This submission, based on the experience of the Small Business Financial Counselling Support Line, supports the proposed changes to Australia’s insolvency laws, including a new restructuring process. We also recommend that the government establish a free winding up service for micro small businesses analogous to the service provided by AFSA for personal bankruptcies. We also support the call from the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman for a Small Business Viability Review Program.
This is the joint consumer group submission about the TIO’s terms of reference, led by WEstJustice. This covers a broad range of issues.
We support proposals 1, 2 and 3 of the paper for reform of the telecommunications industry. This needs to include comprehensive, mandatory and enforceable rules with improved effectiveness. We call on the Government to acknowledge that telecommunications are an essential service in the rules.
FCA’s submission is limited to the consideration of proposed changes to the TIO’s jurisdiction, specifically the inclusion of a new small business definition. Financial counsellors are increasingly assisting small business clients. We support the inclusion of an explicit definition of small business into the terms of reference, based on the number of employees. This is simple to understand and explain. We recommend that the definition be that a small business employs less than 100 employees. This is the definition used by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman and also reflects the ASIC exemption applying to financial counselling agencies under the Corporations Act.
The submission recommends that the Government implement the key recommendations of the Sylvan Review of financial counselling. This would entail formally accepting the recommendations of the Sylvan Review and immediately starting the process to draft legislation to implement the industry funding mechanism for financial counselling described in the Review. The submission also recommends that the government introduce the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Small Amount Credit Contract and Consumer Lease Reforms) Bill and regulate debt management companies. All of these recommendations would help prevent financial stress and harm and are vital components of a financial recovery package.
Joint submission from Financial Rights Legal Centre, Consumer Action Law Centre and FCA setting out why the bankruptcy threshold should be increased to $50,000. It is currently $5,000. This means that people can unfairly lose their homes over very small debts and that bankruptcy is inappropriately used as a debt collection tool.
Joint submission from FCA and the State and Territory financial counselling associations supporting ASIC’s proposed use of its product intervention power to impose a total cost cap on the use by entities of the continuing credit exemption in the national credit laws. The submission includes a number of case studies documenting the significant harm caused by the use of this model by BHF Solutions and its associate Cigno.
This submission describes some of the systemic barriers facing women who are affected by family violence and makes recommendations to overcome them. These include the Centrelink couples rule and how this can allow one partner to control another and the financial harm visited on women and children when child support is collected through a private arrangement but the other parent pays less than promised. There is a need for Family Support Package funding so women can leave DFV relationships and re-establish and adequate access to legal advice and representation in family law matters. The submission also recommends funding for 50 specialist family violence financial counsellors so that every State and Territory has equitable access to this service.
Joint consumer group submission (with CHOICE, ICAN and CCLSWA) documenting the high prices paid by First Nations people living in remote communities. The submission recommends that the Government develop an affordable pricing policy for remote communities, that remote stores are monitored for quality and quantity of goods as well as prices, and that income support payments are increased for people in these areas, recognising the higher cost of living.
Joint consumer group submission (led by the Consumers Federation of Australia) in response to an application by the Australian Banking Association and its member banks, for authorisation by the ACCC for banks to agree on the minimum standards for consumer financial relief programs and to promote customers’ access to banking services in an environment where social distancing is in place. We support both of these applications. In relation to financial relief we suggest that the ACCC’s final authorisation require that banks consult with consumer groups about their content and that there be public reporting about the outcomes of these programs.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action Law Centre) that strongly supports the introduction of design and distribution powers (DDOs) for ASIC. The key issue is whether these will be implemented effectively. The submission makes a number of recommendations to ensure this is the case, including a stronger product governance framework and clearer guidance.
This submission is in response the Australian Banking Association’s (ABA) Consultation Paper: Use of credit cards for gambling transactions (Consultation Paper).
Legislation first proposed by the Federal Government in October 2017 in relation to payday loans and consumer leases must be introduced urgently. People need strong consumer protections when using these high cost and potentially harmful products. The urgent reform needed is to cap the amount that a person can repay at 10% of net income.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Consumer Action Law Centre) responding to the consultation about the design of a Compensation Scheme of Last Resort. A CLSR has been the missing piece of the regulatory architecture in financial services.
It should go without saying that we support the principle that people should not be subjected to discrimination on the basis of their religion. But we have concerns with the bills in their current form. They have two implications for financial counselling. First, that they would allow people to make statements that would be seen as judgemental. This is contrary to the principles of the financial counselling profession. Second, in relation to employment, the draft laws would allow religious bodies to give preference to members of their own religion.
Joint consumer group submission (led by Choice). We argue that Buy Now Pay Later providers are not playing by the same rules as other merchants and this imposes costs on all consumers. We also welcome the RBA's intervention to coordinate regulatory and industry action in relation to managing direct debits and recurring payments. It is ludicrous that consumers still have difficulty in cancelling these deductions.
Joint consumer group submission supporting the proposal for permanent consumer advocacy body in superannuation. We recommend that Super Consumers Australia be this independent voice.
We support an inquiry into insolvency practices and the impact on small business. Insolvency can be difficult, costly and unfair for small business. Small business needs access to expert independent free advice to ensure adequate support. The costs of insolvency need to be reduced and the structure simplified.
This package of draft legislation is a direct response to the Financial Services Royal Commission. The draft bills remove the current exemptions for funeral expenses policies from the licensing and conduct regime in the Corporations Act. We also argue that other exemptions for funeral insurance should also be removed from the Life Insurance Act and the Insurance Contracts Act. The submission supports the commencement date of 1 April 2020. The submission also raises concerns about the impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait policy holders of funeral insurance company ABCF. If this company does not obtain a licence under the new regime, a compensation/redress scheme will be needed for these policy holders. They should not face the loss of past contributions and no future coverage for the costs of their funerals, because of a past legal loopholes and poor drafting.
We do not support the proposed expansion of the compulsory cashless debit card to some people on Centrelink payments in the Northern Territory, . We remain concerned that it deprives people of choice which negatively affects their wellbeing and financial capability.
We support DADOs applying as broadly as possible to reduce the number of loopholes in the law (a problem called out in the Financial Services Royal Commission). For example, DADOs should apply to buy now, pay later products. This submission supports the extension of DADOs to basic bank accounts. We argue that proposed exclusions for credit provided for business purposes and pawnbrokers should be removed, so that they are also included in the regime.
The broking industry needs wholesale reform if it is to act in the best interests of people taking out home loans. We support the imposition of a best interests duty, which should be expanded to all financial products, and the requirement to prioritise needs. There need to be stronger penalties for misconduct, the establishment of record keeping obligations and the loophole about the way a broker is defined needs to be closed. The root cause of so many problems in the mortgage broking industry is remuneration and wholesale reform is needed in this area: removing volume-based and campaign-based commissions, banning non-volume based bonuses, a prohibition on recommending excessive mortgages, ensuring that clawback arrangements encourage switching, defining conflicted remuneration, ensuring that IT software and support systems deliver fair results and ensuring that education and training events are genuine. These reforms would be pro-competitive so that brokers would be forced to scan the market and help people find a loan that best suits their needs. Although the prohibition of upfront and trail commissions are not within the scope of this proposed legislation, the consumer movement reiterates its support for these recommendations from the Financial Services Royal Commission.
This is a joint submission from FCA and the State/Territory financial counselling associations. Fairness should be the underpinning principle in decisions about the level of income support payments. We support an urgent increase in Newstart by at least $75 per week to ensure people are more likely to be able to keep a roof over their heads and pay the household bills. We support an independent review of the adequacy of income support payments and the introduction of an independent body to set such payments to ensure they remain adequate into the future.
We do not support the continuation of the Centrelink automated debt collection process (robodebt). We remain concerned that debts claimed are inaccurate and people who may be experiencing vulnerability are paying debts they do not owe. Centrelink must be sure that a debt is owed before it commences any debt collection process and has the onus of proof. The debt collection process must be designed to be fair and take extra care in all circumstances as it is likely that the person receiving Centrelink is in financial difficulty, disadvantaged or vulnerable.
This joint consumer group submission responds to proposed legislation to include hardship flags in credit reports. We have long opposed this approach. The submission argues that proposed retention timeframes are too long, that hardship flags should only be visible to credit providers that are making responsible lending assessments and that hardship information should not be incorporated into credit scores.
We have welcomed ASIC’s decision to review its guidance on internal dispute resolution for financial services providers. We support making the guidance on internal dispute resolution enforceable. We recommended that fairness and good industry practice are considered when financial firms are responding to complaints. We also supported a 30 day time limit to respond to a complaint.
We support the approach by ASIC on the implementation of the product intervention power. In legislating this power, the Parliament has recognised the need for ASIC to prevent or halt significant consumer detriment when it is identified.
We support ASIC using its product intervention power to prohibit short term lending models (the Cigno model). The short term lending model currently being used by Cigno causes significant harm to people and we urge ASIC to intervene urgently.
Submission calls for the Banking Code of Practice to include among other changes: further principles and specific provisions to better protect vulnerable people; to more imaginatively set out critical information that people need to know instead of relying on the “fine print”; training for staff to help them ask direct questions about relevant personal characteristics that leave a person more vulnerable; and providing actual access in remote areas, such as pop-up banking.
Submission calls for the RFC Service to work much more closely with generalist financial counselling services because of the many similarities in the work of both roles. Possible benefits include better communication and professional development and ultimately better client outcomes.
Submission calls for AFCA to make it explicit that RG209 will be a relevant factor in resolving disputes about responsible lending; that compliance with RG209 should be a key commitment in industry codes that deal with lending under the National Credit Act; that the required inquiry and verification steps be set out in RG209; that these required steps not be reduced for any credit products; and that credit providers should be audited regularly.
Submission recommends that kinship be included as a specific category in legislation as an option for a binding death benefit nomination. This area of superannuation is complex, and binding death benefit nominations can be ruled invalid for a number of reasons. People of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent are very clear about their kinship relationships but are not able to choose their appropriate beneficiaries because such relationships are not legally recognised.
Independent Review of the Customer Owned Banking Code of Practice January 2019
This submission addresses the capacity and capability of the financial counselling sector to assist people experiencing financial stress. A separate submission was made in relation to credit and financial services targeted at Australians at risk of financial hardship.
This submission addresses the terms of reference questions in relation to credit and financial services targeted at Australians at risk of financial hardship. A separate submission covers the capacity and capability of the financial counselling sector (TOR (c)) to assist people experiencing financial stress.
This submission provides a response to ASIC's draft Regulation Guide 139 and its oversight of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.
A submission that supports the changes proposed by the Exposure Draft of the Bankruptcy Amendment (Debt Agreement Reform) Bill 2018 and proposes further reforms.
A response to the Bankruptcy Amendment (Enterprise Incentives) Bill 2017, supporting the reduction of the bankruptcy period from 3 years to 12 months and some ongoing obligations for bankrupts and proposing other amendments.
A pre budget submission calling for continued funding for financial counselling.