It’s a pleasure to present Consumer Action Law Centre’s Impact Report for 2015/16.
Consumer Action protects the community from exploitative and unfair businesses models and practices. Our mission is to ensure that everyone in the community benefits from fair and well-functioning markets. These are big goals, so this year we have for the first time produced an Impact Report, to demonstrate the impact our work has on people’s lives.
Our advocacy is grounded in the experiences of the people we serve. Our financial counselling service and legal practice have again supported around 20,000 Victorians this year. We also actively support financial counsellors and community workers throughout Victoria, particularly through legal advice and training. This helps us expand our reach and ensures we are responding to the issues affecting the most vulnerable people in the community.
Consumer Action has achieved some significant wins with Australians marginalised by unfair markets and business practices, including on issues such as retirement living and energy affordability. On the former, we worked with residents to place this issue on the Victorian parliamentary agenda — this work led to an inquiry into the retirement housing sector which is now underway.
On energy, our ‘Heat or Eat’ report, which shared the stories of Victorians who had been disconnected from electricity or gas and contributed to an inquiry into financial hardship practices of energy retailers undertaken by the Essential Services Commission.
As part of demonstrating impact and, importantly, to continuously improve on our efforts, the centre has this year engaged in significant evaluation activities, including evaluations of our legal advice line, financial counselling and worker advice services. Reports have been published on our website so we can share lessons with others.
Our broader campaign work also utilises reflection and evaluation. An example involves our efforts to fix unfair energy contracts through changing national energy rules, a joint project with the Consumer Utilities Advocacy Centre. While we weren’t able to get the change we were seeking, the evaluation showed we had an impact on industry practice and helped other advocates push forward with change. Our advocacy also led to a Victorian ban on early termination (exit) fees when energy retailers change prices.
We continue to hold ourselves accountable for making a tangible difference. We encourage you to delve into this report which demonstrates the impact we’re having on Australians and the community workers who help them with consumer issues.
Barbara Romeril, Board Chair.
Gerard Brody, Chief Executive Officer.