Submission to Financial System Inquiry

COTA Australia is the national policy vehicle of the eight State and Territory Councils on the Ageing (COTA) in NSW, Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, ACT and the Northern Territory.

COTA Australia has a focus on national policy issues from the perspective of older people as citizens and consumers and it seeks to promote, improve and protect the circumstances and wellbeing of older people in Australia. Our submissions always incorporate the views of our members developed through various consultation mechanisms.

COTA has had a long history of active interest in the financial system to ensure it meets the needs of older people. We are a long term member of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission’s Consumer Advisory Panel and have contributed to some of that Panel’s joint submissions, most recently on the future of financial advice reforms. Older people bring a range of concerns to us including fees and charges for financial services, access to independent advice, complexity of products, access to a dispute resolution process and the impact of technological change on their confidence that they can manage their own financial affairs.

We welcome the Inquiry and are pleased that the terms of reference are broad and explicitly include the impact on consumers of developments in the financial system. We have not attempted to address all the terms of reference but have focused our attention on five areas which we think reflect our constituency’s main concerns;

  • financial literacy
  • independent financial advice
  • microfinance
  • technological innovation, and
  • dispute resolution.

We believe that action on these five is important to ensure we have a strong sustainable financial system that consumers trust and are confident in using.

COTA accepts that there may be scope to reduce the amount of regulation in the financial system but firmly believes that all deregulation proposals need to be carefully reviewed for consumer detriment, with consumers involved in that review.

COTA believes that ASIC is successfully balancing the needs of the service providers with those of the consumers in undertaking its regulatory role. Consumers support a strong, robust and proactive ASIC and believe it should be better resourced to perform its important role.