Sector articles of interest - 16 December

Written on the 16 December 2020 by SAFCA

  • FCA Weekly Digest
  • The Trouble with Telcos: Stories from 2020
  • ATO - Changes to identification process for Financial Counsellors
  • Robodebt looking for case studies
     


FCA Weekly Digest

Welcome to the ninth edition of our Weekly Digest, to keep you across recent news and website/toolkit updates.

We decided we should offer an alternative to the Facebook group, as not everyone is engaged via that platform. The Facebook group will remain active and this newsletter reflects the posts we make each week.

Looking for a different Weekly Digest? You can find all our previous versions on the Weekly Digest Toolkit page.

Website and Toolkit Changes

COVID-19 Toolkit
The Financial Assistance page has been updated.
The JobSeeker page has been updated.
The JobKeeper page has been updated.
The Energy page has been updated.


Compensation for Customers of Freedom Insurance

Clients who had life insurance or funeral insurance with Freedom Insurance may be entitled to compensation.

Compensation is being paid because the policies were often poor value, involved pressure selling and/or disclosure about the product was inadequate.

You might recall that Freedom Insurance was one of the case studies from the Financial Services Royal Commission, where the company sold a life insurance policy to a person with Down Syndrome. It was a truly shocking story click here for more details

Some of the people affected will be contacted directly about the remediation program by the company managing the process (Genus Life Insurance).

For other clients who think they might have life or funeral insurance, it would be worth checking if the policy was sold to them by Freedom Insurance but was issued by another company (AIA Australia, NobleOak Life, Swiss Re Life & Health Australia).

Click here for more information from ASIC


The Bill to Repeal Safe Lending Has Dropped

The bill that seeks to repeal safe lending laws was introduced in Parliament today, despite the DebtDisaster that it will likely cause if it passes.

Below is a video reminder from the CEOs of CHOICE, Consumer Action Law Centre, Financial Rights Legal Centre and FCA about the importance of safe lending laws.

Link to Video

To read the bill yourself, head to the Parliament of Australia website.

For ways to get involved in the campaign, head to www.debtdisaster.com.au

Thank you to those of you who have already contributed so much, your efforts have been incredible.


Young People, Lending and the Pandemic

A journalist who's writing a story for The Guardian would like to speak to young clients (under 30).

The story is part of a series looking at the circumstances young people are confronting after the pandemic.

It will look at responsible lending practices and the way the government is relying on credit to reboot the economy, but with a particular focus on young people.

This story is very important, especially in light of the government's plans to axe responsible lending laws. It would be made stronger by having a young person's voice on it.

If you can think of someone who could speak to this and you have permission from your agency manager, please comment below or contact Georgia Lenton Williams at georgia.lw@financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au. Thank you.


EAP Newsletter: Responding to Domestic and Family Violence

As part of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) package for the sector, we receive emails with wellbeing tips that include helpful resources.

This newsletter focusses on supporting people to respond to domestic and family violence. Organisations also play a vital role by raising awareness, understanding when and how to offer support and addressing attitudes in the workplace.

Here are the tools for this week:

  • Leader Tool - Foster a safe environment for victims of Domestic and Family Violence
  • Personal Tool - Support for victims of Domestic and Family Violence we all have a part to play

Read more about the Member Assistance Program
 



The Trouble with Telcos: Stories from 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has been tough for all of us, but could you imagine getting through it without internet or phone access?

Consumer Action's latest report 'The Trouble with Telcos: Stories from 2020' exposes the failings within the telecommunications industry during the COVID-19 crisis.

Never before has access to phone and internet services been as critical as during 2020. Around the country, many of us (including Consumer Action) are still operating remotely and relying on telecommunications to keep us connected. Across borders, phone calls were the only way many of us could stay in contact with loved ones we couldn't visit. Some people could only see their doctors with a tele-health appointment.

Yet, during this highly stressful and isolating year, our report found that telecommunications providers were failing people across Australia.

It's unacceptable that phone and internet providers failed to offer appropriate financial hardship assistance and cut people off from this essential service during a health crisis.

Can you take two minutes to send the report to your Federal MP asking them to treat telecommunications like the essential service that it is? https://consumer-action-law-centre.good.do/thetroublewithtelcos/telco/

EMAIL YOUR MP

The telecommunications industry's failing meant that this year some people were:

  • unable to access affordable hardship assistance to help them stay connected
  • forced to take out more credit to pay for bills
  • pursued by debt collectors even during hard lockdown
  • cut off from their ability to access basic services, such as a doctor or school

This is exactly the kind of conduct that breeds in a culture of lax "self-regulation" by industry. It's not good enough.

Now's the time for government and regulatory bodies to take action to treat telecommunications like the essential service it is, with robust and enforceable consumer safeguards in place.

Email your MP the 'Trouble with Telcos' report today and ask them to take action.

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that telecommunications services are essential, not only as a lifeline to family, friends and colleagues, but also as a vital tool for work, health, education and accessing government services.

We can't let the telco industry get away with writing its own rules any longer.

Brigette and Alycia,
on behalf of Consumer Action Law Centre
 



ATO - Changes to identification process for Financial Counsellors

There has recently been a change to how financial counsellors establish their identity with the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Financial counsellors have been accepted as "covered entities" under section 255-25(2)(g) of the Tax Administration Act. This means that they can act on behalf of their client as a professional rather than an individual.

FCA has developed "A Guide to Establishing Identity when Dealing with the ATO".

The Guide is available on the Toolkit.

The FCA Guide outlines the process for becoming an authorised representative for your client and confirming your identity with the ATO, as well as the steps you should take if you encounter an ATO representative who does not accept your credentials.

 



Robodebt

The Robodebt automated welfare recovery scheme matched annualised pay information from the Australian Taxation Office and income data reported to Centrelink to claw back overpaid welfare payments.

Earlier this year, the Government announced it will be giving $721 million back to people who paid a Robodebt.

However, it is felt by some that there are a lot of people missing out on compensation.

Do you have any examples of clients who have a Robodebt, and were not fairly treated? Please send case studies to maria@safca.org.au

Read a story published by The Guardian recently


 


Author: SAFCA

SAFCA

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