Consumers and COVID-19: from crisis to recovery

Today the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC) released its June briefing for the Consumers and COVID-19: from crisis to recovery research initiative.

With governments, regulators, business and the broader policy community challenged to provide sufficient support for consumers during the COVID-19 economic crisis and into recovery, CPRC’s research aims to:

  • Better understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on Australian consumers’ experiences, behaviours and expectations across essential and discretionary products and services markets, now and into recovery.
  • Provide policy and program insights on how consumer experiences of COVID-19 should inform the design of support measures that aim to meet the various needs and expectations of consumers.

Key nationwide survey findings – June 2020:

  • Restrictions may have lifted in many part of the country over June, however consumer concern about financial wellbeing remains high at 61%, with 1 in 5 Australians very concerned.
  • While concern is generally high across all consumers (61%), we see above average levels of concern among casual workers (70%) and renters (67%).
  • We are seeing more actions being taken by consumers to manage their household expenses in June, compared to May, such as:
    • Using credit card or buy now pay later services (from 22% to 26%)
    • Selling shares, investments or householder goods (from 4% to 6%)
    • Closing / cancelling ongoing services / subscriptions (from 15% to 18%)
  • Casual workers have been much more active in drawing down on finite resources to make ends meet: using credit cards or buy now pay later services (48%); applying for early access to superannuation (20% – general population 7%); or dipping into savings (52% – general population 30%).
  • In June, consumers were slightly more active across all sectors than in May when it came to contacting essential product and service providers to switch products, ask for payment assistance (including payment plans), or apply for concessions. Consumers were most active in the rental market, with 17% renters contacting property managers and landlords, and least active with credit providers (7%).
  • Concerningly, negative experiences for consumers rose significantly in June, when engaging telecommunications (from 15% to 22%) and credit (5% to 8%) providers. 
  • Energy was the only sector that saw a fall in reported negative experiences from May to June (from 10% to 7%). 
  • In June, mortgage providers were the most proactive in providing support for consumers, with 25% of consumers reporting they’d received some form of assistance. Mortgage providers were most likely to be providing helpful advice about payments (14% of consumers), proactively offering payment assistance such as payment plans or deferrals (8% of consumers) and reducing the cost of service (8% of consumers). 
  • Telecommunications providers (11% to 16%) and credit providers (8% to 11%) also increased proactive offers of positive support to consumers, albeit reaching a very small proportion of consumers around Australia.
  • Significant opportunities exist for government, industry and community sector organisations to partner to maximise the awareness of consumer support measures available. We expect this need will only increase over the coming months.

Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to know more about this research initiative over coming months.

Download the June Monthly Briefing.

CPRC Media Release 07/08