Can regulatory impact processes benefit consumers?

Qld Consumers Association’s Ian Jarratt urges consumer groups to engage with the current Productivity Commission project on the quality of Regulatory Impact processes

Consumer and community groups should consider engaging more with the Productivity Commission’s (PC) current project on the efficiency and quality of Federal, State/Territory, and COAG Regulatory Impact processes.

Regulatory Impact Analysis (RIA) is used by governments to assess proposed and existing public policies.  So, it is very relevant to the work of many consumer/community advocacy groups.

But, the PC’s recently-released Draft Report on RIA shows that only 1 consumer/community group was consulted and only 2 made submissions on the Issues Paper – Consumer Action and the Queensland Consumers Association (QCA).  Industry and business groups participated much more with 12 consultations and 12 submissions.

There is still time for other consumer/community groups can get involved via consultations (which can by phone) and written submissions (which do not necessarily have to be lengthy) on the Draft Report.

The Draft Report and the Consumer Action and QCA submissions are available at

The submissions from Consumer Action and QCA included:

  • Noting that the RIA process tends to focus more heavily on the costs regulation will create for business than on the less tangible benefits that regulation will provide or on the cost to affected groups of retaining the status quo.
  • Highlighting the problems associated with the use of complaints data to measure consumer detriment.
  • Emphasising the need to take account of qualitative information (including case studies) not just quantitative information.
  • Recommending use by RIA processes of the guidance in the OECD’s Consumer Policy Tool Kit on assessing less tangible aspects of consumer detriment and the benefits of regulation.
  • Highlighting the need for consumer detriment surveys and consumer impact statements.
  • Using a case study to illustrate deficiencies in the content, timing, processes, etc, of a federal regulatory impact statement.

The Draft Report’s conclusions include:

  • Well designed and implemented RIA can contribute to better regulation and outcomes for the community.
  • The efficacy of the RIA process is often reduced by lack of engagement with the process, starting the process too late, undertaking public consultation in a perfunctory manner, and excluding proposals from rigorous analysis.
  • Commitment to RIA varies considerably between ministers, agencies and jurisdictions and where lacking is a major hindrance to the effective use of RIAs.
  • Many proposals with highly significant impacts are either exempted from the RIA process or not rigorously analysed.
  • Where RIS applies, it should be assumed that a RIS is required unless demonstrated that impacts are not significant.
  • Greater attention should be given to leading practices for monitoring, reporting and accountability of RIA, including requiring a draft RIS for early consultation and publishing all RISs and RIS adequacy assessments.

The PC contact person is Rosalyn Bell ph 02 6240 3308.

The closing date for submissions is 5 October.

Ian Jarratt, Queensland Consumers Association