ICAN is creating career pathways for its employees through the establishment of the ‘NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce’, a new financial literacy and consumer outreach program to address ongoing financial and consumer disadvantage experienced in remote Indigenous communities in Far North Queensland. The program is developed in response to outcomes from a recent enforceable undertaking by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) with Home Essentials Australia Pty Ltd, I Love My Water Pty Ltd, Triple Bay Group Pty Ltd and Triple Bay Pty Ltd, where $125,000 will fund financial literacy and outreach activities delivered by ICAN.
The NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce will carry out outreach consumer and financial literacy training in remote Indigenous communities in Far North Queensland, and will host regular consumer forums in partnership with state and national consumer regulatory bodies to tackle key issues affecting the region. Outreach activities under the program will include workshops on financial literacy, personal financial management and consumer education. Importantly, the outreach program is providing career pathways for ICAN staff to bring their financial counselling skills to largely underserviced communities across Cape York and the Torres Strait.
The NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce will be headed by Marcella Ketchell, from ICAN’s financial counselling team. Ms Ketchell, whom is from Cairns and is of Cape York Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, has been a part of ICAN’s financial counselling team since 2012 and is a current student in the “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program”, ICAN’s culturally-specific training program in the Diploma of Community Services (Financial Counselling).
Ms Ketchell is looking forward to the new role and working with communities in the Cape, NPA and Torres Strait areas. “I believe it’s important to find out who the businesses are that target these communities and take advantage of them and raise awareness of systemic unfair business practices to the regulatory agencies” said Marcella. “Improved consumer awareness and financial literacy is also important to improve individuals’ financial situations and it’s a service that people in these areas have not had access to for a long time.”
“In 2013 Marcella conducted 11 consumer awareness training workshops in the Torres Strait and Cape York Region with very positive feedback from local agencies” said Jon O’Mally, ICAN Services Manager. “Marcella possesses all the essential qualities and skills necessary to lead the NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce.”
The program will host regular consumer forums, to focus on issues affecting Indigenous consumers in North Queensland. The NQ Consumer Forum will comprise ICAN staff and representatives from state and national consumer regulatory bodies, including the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), Queensland Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and community legal services. Members of the taskforce will develop a regional action plan, to be coordinated by ICAN, to provide joint consumer outreach/investigation and educational activities and share information about current consumer issues in Indigenous communities throughout North Queensland.
The NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce builds on the success of joint consumer activities in the Region through the provision of much needed services in selected communities of Cape York and the Torres Strait Islands. The “Indigenous Financial Counselling Mentorship Program” is in its second round of training delivery, with eleven participants from across the country expected to graduate with their Diploma in late June 2014. The ‘Mentorship Program’ is delivered by ICAN in partnership with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Central Institute of Technology (WA).
For more information on ICAN’s new NQ Indigenous Consumer Taskforce, please contact Jon O’Mally, Services Manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background Media Release: 14-021MR Unlicensed rental companies enter into enforceable undertaking with ASIC
Tuesday 4 February 2014
ASIC has entered into an enforceable undertaking (EU) with Home Essentials Australia Pty Ltd, I Love My Water Pty Ltd, Triple Bay Group Pty Ltd and Triple Bay Pty Ltd, and the companies’ principals, Daniel Tarabay, Teddy Tarabay and Ronald Carabay, after an investigation found they engaged in unlicensed credit activities.
The companies and principals have also agreed to make a payment of $250,000 to be split equally between the Pilbara Community Legal Service and the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network. The money will be used to continue the work of educating and advising consumers on financial products and dealings with financial services providers.
ASIC’s investigation found the four businesses were involved in the hire and sale of water coolers and first aid kits using ‘rent to own’ agreements. They were marketed to consumers by door-to-door sales representatives, in many cases to vulnerable consumers, including those living in remote areas such as the Pilbara region in Western Australia. Consumers around Australian entered into around 16,000 rent to own agreements.
ASIC also found the prices paid by consumers for the goods exceeded their fair market value, meaning the agreements they entered into were credit contracts. This activity required the companies to be licensed under the National Credit Act.
ASIC was concerned that:
· The companies continued to engage in credit activities while unlicensed, despite being told by ASIC of the need to be licensed;
· The companies engaged in unconscionable conduct when dealing with vulnerable consumers, including Indigenous consumers in remote communities, and;
· The rent to own agreements contained unfair terms which provided an automatic rollover of the rental term unless the consumer took steps to cancel the contract.
Under the EU, the companies and principals have agreed to take the following steps for the benefit of affected customers:
· Stop collecting payments owed by customers under existing rent to own agreements;
· Allow customers to keep the goods they were renting with no further payments required;
· Not exercise any rights they have under rent to own agreements, except to honour any contractual or statutory warranties to which customers are entitled, and;
· Provide refunds to customers who have made payments under a rent to own agreement but not received their rental goods, which are expected to total approximately $100,000.
The companies and principals have also agreed:
· Not to engage in credit activities or apply for a credit licence for a period of 5 years;
· To engage an independent consultant to oversee and report to ASIC on their compliance with the EU.
Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘The national credit legislation provides important safeguards for consumers. Ensuring that businesses comply with the licensing regime is the first line of defence for ASIC in protecting the interests of consumers. The credit legislation has now been in place for a number of years and, as the outcome of this matter demonstrates, those who engage in credit activities no longer have any excuse for not complying with the licensing requirements.
‘This case also represents an important outcome for ASIC in its efforts to protect vulnerable consumers from businesses that do not operate within the bounds of the law. In this matter, we saw the use of unconscionable and unfair practices and the targeting of consumers in remote areas who have limited access to financial products and services. It is vital that these consumers are afforded their full rights under the law by those who wish to do business with them’.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission, 2014, “14-021MR Unlicensed rental companies enter into enforceable undertaking with ASIC”,