Complexity, disengagement and inability to choose products that suit consumer needs and preferences have all been raised as significant challenges for consumers across a range of competitive markets.
Our Five Preconditions of Effective Consumer Engagement report outlines a conceptual framework and associated remedies for policymakers and businesses to better support consumers make product choices across a range of competitive markets.
In kicking off the event, CPRC’s Board Chair, Catherine Wolthuizen, spoke to the impetus for the project – the crisis of trust around the world, and the numerous regulatory reviews across different sectors currently underway. Catherine also spoke to the policy gap that has emerged in deregulated markets, and the need for a more prominent role by policymakers to enable consumer engagement in markets, particularly essential services or complex markets.
Report authors Lauren Solomon, Chief Executive of CPRC, and Ben Martin Hobbs, Research and Policy Officer, provided an overview of the report and the Five Preconditions required for consumers to effectively engage in markets, illustrated with relevant examples internationally and locally.
An expert panel of Australian academics also discussed the need to remove barriers for vulnerable and digitally excluded consumers, along with the significant challenges encountered when comparing and switching offers.
Dr Yvette Maker, Senior Research Associate at the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, University of Melbourne, spoke to her research on addressing the barriers to access for consumers with decision-making impairments – a key aspect of Precondition 1 (Barriers to access for consumers with reduced capacity or vulnerability are removed).
Yvette outlined the legal frameworks relevant to supported decision-making, the limits of existing approaches and how we might go about developing new models of support for these consumers.
You can read a bit more about Yvette’s research here.
Dr Rob Nicholls , Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales Business School, spoke to the difficulty consumers have in comparing offers and stickiness in switching providers.
Rob also drew comparisons across sectors, pointing to mobile phone number portability in telecommunications as an example of a success story and the need for metadata portability to reduce market friction – essential to supporting Preconditions 3 (Comparison tools are accurate, simple and effective) and 4 (Switching costs [financial and non-financial] are low).
Read more about Rob’s work here.
Professor Julian Thomas, Director for the Social Change Enabling Capability Platform at RMIT University, provided key insights from the most recent Australian Digital Inclusion Index research. Julian noted that the data shows a significant portion of consumers continue to face barriers to access, and limited digital literacy for particular consumer cohorts.
Julian highlighted that while older consumers face may have limited digital literacy, policymakers should not make assumptions about the ability of so called digital natives.
Limited digital literacy and access is relevant not only for Precondition 1 but also for Precondition 5 (Consumers are aware of how to access, assess, and act on information), where policymakers rely on digital channels to provide consumers with information or new tools to choose products or services more easily.
Explore more of Julian’s work here.
The CPRC team would like to thank all who attended our launch, as well as our expert speakers who gave generously of their time and knowledge, helping to make the event a memorable success. Special thanks to EnergyAustralia for graciously hosting the luncheon event.