I was fortunate to attend the COTA Australia National Policy Forum recently which focussed on the theme Older Consumers: Choice, Challenges and Rights in Changing Markets. The stories arising from the banking royal commission make us aware of the pitfalls we can face as consumers if companies do not act in our best interests or are poorly regulated.
The forum brought together older consumers, consumer advocates, academics, regulators and sector experts. They closely examined the challenges and opportunities facing older consumers in current and emerging markets; and identified priorities for ensuring their voices are heard in consumer policy, regulation and market practice.
Jane Caro spoke about her experiences in the advertising industry, and how it attempts to segment and stereotype different groups. She emphasised that we are all human beings with an equal right to be respected when interacting with companies. They need to recognise and value the growing market of older Australians. Gerard Brody highlighted that customers are not rewarded for loyalty. Companies are focusing on incentives for people to switch to them, rather than rewarding those who stay with them.
A number of the panel discussions grappled with the complex markets being created in a range of sectors where choice is now being encouraged. These include energy, health insurance, financial services and aged care and disability services. However, there are many barriers to people obtaining the right information to make good choices.
Regulators are becoming more aware of these issues and working to enforce better standards across a range of industries. More information is available on the COTA Australia website, where some of the presentations from the Forum will be available in the near future: COTA Australia National Policy Forum
The Commonwealth Bank has released a guide Safe and Savvy to help older people avoid abuse, scams and fraud. You can download this guide here.
COTA continues to be an active advocate in many forums to improve the experiences of older consumers.