Often our reports are submitted to government or launched through media channels. The issues we represent are significant not only to our members, but to the wider community. We also work with a number of other organisations who research and release consumer focused reports. Our Annual Reports are located at the bottom of this page.
Below are a selection of recent reports.
When, in 2014, we first surveyed financial counsellors on the hardship practices of energy retailers, concern about energy affordability was at its peak. After years of steep price increases, both electricity and gas disconnections had leapt to an all-time high, as had customer complaints to the ombudsman. Intense community concern about energy prices and retailer practices was reflected in a stream of near-daily media reports on the energy affordability crisis.
In the two years that have passed since the first Rank the Retailer survey, much has changed. Complaints to the ombudsman have dropped away precipitously, and energy prices have stabilised, taking much of the heat out of the public conversation on energy costs.
Amid these positive developments, however, the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC) continued to hear from members that financial counsellors’ work helping clients in financial hardship to deal with energy retailers remained as critical and as time-consuming as it had been in 2014. Large numbers of customers were still struggling to pay for the energy they needed, amassing debt and facing disconnection.
Read the full report
Over 67,000 Victorians signed an online petition calling on the Victorian Government to catch up with other states by allowing instalment payments on car registrations.
The petition has resulted in a report, investigating instalment options, by the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC), peak body for financial counsellors in Victoria.
You can view the petition here: http://chn.ge/1TGF9O8
Download the report
In the submission we have proposed a two year pilot program to trial the delivery of a specialist family violence financial counselling service who would work within a range of health, legal and family violence agencies across Victoria. FCs obviously work with people impacted by economic abuse. This submission addresses current gaps, the need for a different service delivery approach, specialist training for the sector and industry improvement in hardship caused by family violence.
Read the submission here
FCRC receives daily feedback from financial counsellors across Victoria on how the policies and practices of industries and institutions impact on the lives of their clients. At the 2013 FCRC statewide conference, financial counsellors identified the high cost of energy and its subsequent impact on clients experiencing financial hardship as the single most critical issue in their casework. The ‘Rank the Energy Retailer’ survey is FCRC’s first step in providing insight and analysis into the efficacy of Victorian energy retailer practices when dealing with customers experiencing financial hardship. The primary focus was on the ‘big three’ energy retailers – Origin Energy, AGL and EnergyAustralia – with additional questions capturing experiences with second and third tier retailers.
Read the full report.
As part of our on-going commitment to consumers, especially those in financial hardship, we have conducted a survey of over one hundred of our member financial counsellors who deal directly with struggling Victorians and the banks with whom they have financial relationships.
The results of the survey are of concern to the consumer advocacy sector, and we would like to bring them to your attention for discussion.
The survey focused on three areas:
In 2013, this report was conducted on a national level by Financial Counselling Australia. What is shown in both the FCRC state report and the FCA national report is that the way the banks respond to their customers struggling to make repayments can vary. Hardship is an important consumer issue as it can often make or break a family’s path to financial recovery. The ‘Rank the Bank’ report clearly identifies areas for improvement for the banks’ hardship policies and procedures.
Financial difficulty can affect anyone. Economic instability, unexpected illness, relationship breakdown and unemployment have meant that many families and individuals fall into financial difficulty.
Uncertain economic times and increased financial services regulation, combined with community expectations, demand that major institutions such as the ‘big four’ have in place appropriate policies to support customers that experience financial hardship.
Financial counsellors are increasingly involved in the policy process through the ‘feeding’ of cases that are vital to improving consumer outcomes. We see it as imperative that FCRC continues to respond to systemic hardship issues and as such, the Rank the Bank report has this year been repeated, Australia wide.
The invaluable data generated by reports such as this helped us to work with industry and our members to improve processes.
Above all, it strengthens the consumer voice.
Read the Rank the Bank National Report 2013
Results of the FCRC State Report 2012
Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Westpac need to ‘lift their game’ according to the results of survey of Victorian financial counsellors conducted by the Financial and Consumer Rights Council (FCRC).
Westpac and CBA both ‘failed’ overall in their responses to people in financial difficulty with CBA ranked the lowest of the ‘big four’ banks on all measures, leaving us to wonder whether CBA ‘CAN’ assist their customers doing it tough.
Results clearly ranked NAB as the current industry leader. Financial counsellors consistently rated NAB’s financial hardship processes and client outcomes higher than any other ‘big four’ bank. ANZ ranked second and was the only other bank to obtain a ‘pass’ mark
For free, independant financial counselling, call 1800 007 007 Australia wide.
The FCRC Flood Relief Initiative aimed to support and help co-ordinate the response to those Victorians financially affected by the 2010-2011 floods. This report documents the experience and outcomes of the FCRC Victorian Flood Relief Initiative and provides reflections and recommendations to inform government, emergency services and community relief agencies to better support financial recovery in flood impacted communities.
The project was generously supported by the Victorian Government Department of Justice, through the Office of Gaming and Racing. The FCRC would like to express its appreciation to the Office of Gaming and Racing for its support and funding of this project. With government investment in the project, financial counsellors and their clients have benefitted from the resources and information that a central co-ordination effort of a peak body such as the FCRC can provide.
It is important that the experience and learning from these tragedies is not lost and that we can continue to increase the capability and effectiveness of the financial counselling sector to deal with future unexpected crises.