“Debt vultures” are the so-called debt management firms who promise to help Australians in financial hardship or with listings of payment defaults on their credit reports. They typically offer services such as budgeting, debt negotiation and “credit repair”. They exist in a regulatory black hole, outside the remit of ASIC and finance sector Ombudsman schemes.
In Australia, we don’t have a ban on unfair trading. Instead, our consumer laws rely on prohibiting something called “unconscionable conduct”, an old-fashioned approach based on the moral conduct of the wrongdoer. It is increasingly recognised that effective consumer law in a modern technology and service-based economy like ours should promote effective competition.
Cold calling and door-knocking has had its day. The recent VET scandal demonstrated this, by pushing vulnerable Australians to enrol in unsuitable and expensive courses over the phone or on their doorstep.
Australians need a Retail Ombudsman, based on the model already operating in the United Kingdom, to hear complaints between consumers and retailers relating to goods or services purchased either in stores or online.