The Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) in collaboration with state and national consumer regulatory bodies formed the NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce earlier this month. Representatives from ICAN, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have developed a regional action plan to coordinate joint consumer outreach/investigation activities, share educational resources and information about current consumer issues in Indigenous communities throughout North Queensland.
ICAN CEO Aaron Davis highlighted the need for a coordinated approach to tackling Indigenous consumer disadvantage in the region. “Both state and federal consumer regulatory bodies have really lifted in this area; unfortunately there is still a long way to go,” he said.
“Telemarketers, door-to-door traders and dodgy telecommunication companies are still causing severe financial detriment in Indigenous communities,” said Mr Davis.
Mr Len Curran, North Queensland Manager of the Office of Fair Trading noted that the NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce was a “fantastic opportunity for all the agencies to work together to achieve better outcomes for indigenous consumers.”
“We have all worked together on various issues in the past but this is a chance to coordinate skills and resources to target activity where it is needed” he explained.
A current theme driving the task force is the targeting of Indigenous communities by traders via door to door trading. Each agency involved deals with specific portions of legislation, allowing for consumer cases to be examined together to determine holistic strategies to deal with systemic issues. The newly formed task force will share intelligence and move proactively to ensure consumers and traders are aware of rights and obligations before entering into contracts.
“It’s far better to deal with things at the front end rather than to try and pick up the pieces afterwards” said Mr Curran.
“Acting in a collective and collaborative manner will enable better outcomes for consumers and allow the available resource pool across agencies to extend to a far greater and more targeted coverage” he said.
Member agencies of the Taskforce will be visiting regional and remote communities throughout North Queensland, Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands over the coming months. The key objectives of these visits is to promote agency services, provide consumer education and collect rogue trader intelligence.