National consumer advisory committees

Agencies responsible for consumer policyregulation, dispute resolution and/or law enforcement have recognised the considerable benefits of formal consumer input into their work. A number have established consumer advisory committees as one way to get consumer perspectives.  

Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) Consumer Consultative Forum 

ACMA’s Consumer Consultative Forum was formed to assist ACMA in relation to consumer issues. It establishes a forum between suppliers and consumers to provide ACMA with informed and representative advice on communications and media issues. 

Find out more about ACMA’s Consumer Consultative Forum here. 

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Consumer Consultative Committee

The ACCC’s Consumer Consultative Committee was formed in 2001 to allow consumer protection issues to be considered and addressed by a collaboration between the ACCC and consumer representatives. Membership of the Consumer Consultative Committee is spread across consumer representatives and community groups and currently includes CFA members ACCAN, CHOICE, CALC and Financial Counselling Australia. 

Find out more about the ACCC’s Consumer Consultative Committee here. 

Australian Energy Regulator (AER) Customer Consultative Group  

The Customer Consultative Group (CCG) provides advice to the AER in relation to its functions under the energy laws affecting energy consumers across participating jurisdictions. 

Find out more about AER’s Customer Consultative Group here 

Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) Consumer Advisory Panel (ACAP) 

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority Consumer Advisory Panel (ACAP) aims to consult with consumer advocates on all major initiatives it undertakes. The AFCA Consumer Advisory Panel provides insights and analysis on strategic and policy issues and highlights emerging issues facing consumers. 

Find out more about the AFCA Consumer Advisory Panel here 

Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) Consumer Advisory Panel 

ASIC’s Consumer Advisory Panel was established in 1999 to advise ASIC on consumer protection issues. The Panel provides feedback to ASIC on policy, research and education programs, and on their related consumer issues. 

Find out more about ASIC’s Consumer Advisory Panel here. 

Consumer Affairs Australia New Zealand (CAANZ) Consumer Advocate Forum 

CAANZ is the key forum for consumer affairs senior officials. CAANZ supports the Legislative and Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs (CAF), which is the forum of Ministers that oversees consumer affairs matters including the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Functions of CAANZ include the development and implementation of consumer policy, the undertaking of research, the sharing of information on consumer issues and consultation with stakeholders. The CAANZ Consumer Advocate Forum meets at least once annually and is co-chaired by the chair of CAANZ and the chair of CFA. 

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Consumer and Public Health Dialogue  

The Consumer and Public Health Dialogue (CPHD) provides a means by which FSANZ can engage in deeper consultation with peak consumer and public health bodies and academics. The objective is to improve FSANZ’s awareness and understanding of community food and health issues and public priorities and provide a more effective food regulatory response. 

Find out more about FSANZ’s Consumer and Public Health Dialogue here. 

National Measurement Institute (NMI) Consumer and Industry Liaison Committee  

The Consumer and Industry Liaison Committee’s principal purposes are to allow representatives of NMI, industry and consumers to exchange views about trade and regulatory matters as they relate to trade measurement and to formulate advice to NMI aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the regulatory framework and service levels.  

Find out more about the NMI Consumer and Industry Liaison Committee here 

Improved consumer research and advocacy

CFA strongly supports the purpose and activities of the above committees. Some work very well while others could be improved. ASIC CAP in particular has a strong structure with an independent chair, control of its own agenda, strong buy in from ASIC Commissioners and senior management and has at times been responsible for allocating its own research budget. The ACCC Consumer Consultative Committee also has many of these qualities, as has the newly formed AFCA Consumer Panel. We encourage ACMA and other regulators to adopt the key features of the ASIC model.

We note that a number of important consumer agencies do not have such a committee, including the Therapeutic Goods Administration and some EDR schemes. We urge each of these bodies to develop more effective ways to obtain consumer input, including an appropriately structured consumer advisory body, created in partnership with relevant consumer organisations.

The Commonwealth Consumer Affairs Advisory Council (CCAAC) was created in 1999, and proved effective in pursuing a proactive consumer research agenda on certain issues referred by the Commonwealth Minister for Consumer Affairs such as improved consumer product guarantees, gift cards, and the Benchmarks for Industry based Customer Dispute Resolution. Unfortunately CCAAC has not been in effective operation since 2014.
Advisory committees can only go so far, however. CFA believes that Australian governments should implement the recommendations of the 2008 Productivity Commission Report on Australia’s Consumer Policy Framework that urged government financial support for independent consumer research and for a national peak consumer organisation.