Save Sorry Business Campaign and Stop the Debt Trap Alliance Win CFA’s 2023 Consumer Advocacy Award

2023 Consumer Advocacy Award winners
2023 Consumer Advocacy Award winners

At the 2023 ACCC National Consumer Congress, the Consumers’ Federation of Australia (CFA) was proud to present our Consumer Advocacy Award for the best consumer advocacy campaign or project of the past year. The nominees this year were all strong contenders:

1.     The Save Sorry Business Campaign – this campaign successfully fought for government support of First Nations people impacted by the collapse of the Aboriginal Funeral Benefits Fund, later known asYoupla. Youpla profited by misleading First Nations peoples that they where Aboriginal owned and a funeral fund, manipulating cultural obligations around Sorry Business. This harm was amplified by successive Federal Governments allowing ACBF/Youpla on Centrepay in 2001. The First Nations led campaign secured an interim response from the Federal Government, the Youpla Funerary Benefit Program, which will assist people who need to make claims until 30 November 2023. The Federal Government will also establish a fair and culturally appropriate scheme before the interim scheme expires.

The Save Sorry Business Campaign was conducted by the Save Sorry Business Coalition. The Coalition was represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Bettina Cooper.

2.     Reining in facial recognition technology in retail and beyond – this campaign successfully exposed the use of facial recognition technology (FRT) by large retailers such as Kmart, Bunnings, and the Good Guys resulting in a regulatory investigation, the current cessation of FRT by those retailers, the announcement from other major retailers in Australia that they would not be using FRT, and greater consumer knowledge and mobilisation against the use of FRT.

The campaign to rein in usage of FRT was run by CHOICE, and represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Kate Bower.

3.     SCA Retirement Savings Target – the goal of the SCA Retirement Savings Target was to provide consumers with appropriate retirement savings targets, independent from super fund industry lobby groups, and based on the actual expenditure of retirees. The campaign gathered quantitative and qualitative data, liaised with industry and experts, and had their targets adopted by MoneySmart and covered by journalist Scott Pape. Additionally, Super Consumers Australia (SCA) is currently working with CHOICE to produce an interactive retirement savings tool.

The SCA Retirement Savings Target campaign was conducted by Super Consumers Australia and represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Rosie Thomas.

4.     Renter Researcher Project – this project brought together a cohort of renters as part of a citizen’s research project, equipping renters with a temperature gauge for two summers and one winter to collect quantifiable data on the discomfort renters felt in their own homes. This cohort became part of a renter research community, fostering a sense of belonging and support. This cohort was then empowered with media and advocacy training, generating roughly 50 media stories and meeting with Members of Parliament. This campaign has also led to the ACT Government introducing minimum ceiling standards effective 1st April 2023.

This campaign was run by Better Renting, with some funding from Energy Consumers Australia, and was represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Joel Dignam.

5.     Settlement Justice Partnership – Over 18 months this project worked with people of refugee backgrounds and settlement workers to gain insight into systemic issues at play, to assist with legal case work, and to run information and education programs for both people with a refugee background and settlement workers. These programs focused on key issues such as buying a car, scams, consumer protections, the Australian legal system, and domestic violence – including economic abuse. Information materials in Easy English were also developed. Key insights from the final report identified a range of pressing systemic issues including the impact of the digital divide on recently-arrived communities, and the failure of industries such as banking and telecommunication to provide effective access to interpreters.

This campaign was run by West Justice and represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Tess Matthews.

6.     Fairer laws for payday loans and consumer leases – run by the Stop the Debt Trap Alliance, this campaign succeeded in getting the Federal Government to enact new laws to better safeguard consumer leases and small amount credit contracts (SACCs), otherwise known as payday loans, which were charging consumers for these loans the equivalent of an annual interest rate, typically, of between 100 and 400 percent and pushing an estimated 15% of borrowers into a debt spiral. The national coalition of 26 partners, after launching this specific campaign in 2019, saw the passing of new laws in 2022 and their implementation on 12th June 2023 to provide legal reforms that will help consumer advocates and their clients.

This campaign was conducted by the coalition of 26 partners of Stop the Debt Trap Alliance and was represented at the Consumer Advocacy Awards by Tania Clarke.

In the end, the judges could not decide between all of these strong contenders and jointly awarded the Save Sorry Business Campaign and Stop the Debt Trap Alliance for their strong and successful consumer advocacy campaigns. Congratulations to all the campaigns and projects.

We look forward to seeing everyone again next year!