Australian Debt Vultures closer to being caged by regulators

consumer rights, Australia, wins

Thanks to a cunning email campaign with hundreds of people taking action, regulating rogue Debt Vultures (aka debt management firms) is closer to becoming a reality. Just this month Australian consumer ministers committed to action and the Consumer Action Law Centre plans to hold them to it.

Live debt free! Take control! Never stress about money again! No doubt you’ve heard these words echo out of your radio or television at some point. These commonly used catch cries, coined by dodgy debt management firms, aim to flog services such as “repairing” credit reports, debt negotiation, personal budgeting, and debt agreements.

Debt management firms fly under the radar, and are free to give (often bad) advice, spruiking so-called "debt solutions" to those in financial hardship. They also waste the time of financial counsellors, who are left to clean up the mess.

To the benefit of those struggling with debt across Australia, the Consumer Action Law Centre recently launched a successful campaign, calling for greater regulation of these dodgy financial players.

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The campaign armed with a strong message, true urgency and clearly identified targets - aimed to influence decision makers leading up to a meeting of Australia’s Consumer Ministers on August 31, 2017. By deploying these three essential ingredients, the campaign was a success and ministers took note!

Mick Bellairs, Campaigns and Communications Officer for The Consumer Action Law Centre said:

Using the Do Gooder platform, we set up an MP email campaign calling for action at the meeting. We promoted the campaign to community workers who see these Debt Vulture products ripping off their clients, as well as our supporters and partner organisations.

“While we leveraged off a variety of campaigning tools to help win the campaign, the DoGooder platform gave us a “call to action” that we could not have replicated ourselves. It raised awareness of the issue amongst the public and decision makers, and created a sense of campaign momentum”, Mick Bellairs continued.

In addition the campaign reached free media. Coverage included a prominent article in The Guardian, as well as slots on Triple J Hack, and ABC radio.

In the end, consumer ministers released a statement saying:
“Ministers acknowledged that addressing the conduct of debt management firms will require a coordinated Commonwealth policy approach. Ministers noted the Commonwealth will commence work in 2018 to determine the merits and feasibility of debt management firms coming into the financial services regulatory framework.

Ministers also noted a consumer education campaign would be developed as an interim measure to raise awareness of the costs and potential risks involved in using debt management firms and raise awareness of alternatives to debt management firms for consumers.”

In other words.. The first battle in a long war to force debt management firms to play by the same rules as everyone else, has been won!

Where to now? The Consumer Action Law Centre now has a path forward and will be back with more ways people can help soon!

For more information about their sensational work, check out: http://consumeraction.org.au/

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About Jessica Medcalf

Campaigner, conservationist, animal lover, interested in progressive social and political movements. #TeamDoGooder
  • Sydney, Australia