In 2011, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) introduced the Australian Consumer Law, replacing the previous state and territory legislation. The Australian Consumer Law guarantees consumer rights when purchasing goods or services, along with protections around unfair contract terms, unsolicited consumer agreements via door-to-door or telephone sales and a range of other fair-trading practices.
COTA Australia represents the interests of older Australians as consumers in a number of industries and through participation in several consumer reference groups. Two important examples are our presence on the Consumer Consultation Committee of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Consumer Advisory Panel of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) . Through these important bodies we work with a range of partners to advocate for strong action by to improve consumer rights and outcomes for older Australians.
One of the current, major focuses of our consumer rights work is energy. Energy issues are an important and growing concern for our constituency of older Australians. Affordability is a critical concern for older consumers, particularly for the large percentage who are on low, fixed incomes and heavily reliant on energy supply to maintain their health and wellbeing.
One aspect of our current work on this issue is an advocacy capacity building project we have underway. This exciting project is supported by a grant from Energy Consumers Australia, and is being delivered across the country by the COTAs in those States and Territories that are part of the National Electricity Market. The project is providing training and support to a group of COTA volunteers and staff to equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to speak up for the needs of older Australians with energy retailers and networks, and relevant government bodies.