Consumers and COVID-19: from crisis to recovery

The Consumer Policy Research (CPRC) team today launches our latest report Consumers and COVID-19: from crisis to recovery including the first findings from our monthly nationwide survey.

As COVID-19 exposes the frailties within systems and across the community, this new research explores the experiences and concerns of 1114 Australians in managing basic household expenses. 

Aggregate figures don’t tell the full story. Renters, young people, casual workers and people with a disability are bearing the brunt of this consumer crisis. People are drawing on limited resources just to make ends meet.

Consumer trust and confidence are central to economic recovery. With household expenditure making up more than half of Australia’s GDP, the experience and actions of consumers will ultimately determine the trajectory of recovery over the years to come. 

Support measures can be better designed to reach those in need. Consumer protections can be modernised for the digital age to ensure fair treatment and safety in an offline and online environment.

Stimulus measures must come hand in hand with adequate consumer protections to build trust and confidence. Fairness, safety and inclusion rest at the heart of the recovery mission for a more resilient Australia.

Today’s report release will be followed by monthly updates on the Australian consumer experience of COVID-19 through to November 2020. This research involves the full CPRC Research and Policy Team: Andrew Thomsen, Emma O’Neill, Ben Martin Hobbs and Lauren Solomon.

Key nationwide survey findings – May 2020:

  • 12 million Australians are concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on their financial wellbeing; 1 in 5 are ‘very’ concerned
  • Almost half of Australians (49%) are taking steps to manage their household expenses including dipping into savings (28%) and using credit cards or buy-now-pay-later services (22%)
  • More than 1 in 4 Australians are worried about their ability to pay rent, mortgage repayments and energy bills
  • Consumers are most concerned about their ability to manage housing costs – with 37% concerned about paying rent and 27% concerned about meeting mortgage payments 
  • 1 in 5 Australian renters and mortgage holders are taking action to manage rent or mortgage repayments; seeking better deals with mortgage providers, requesting payment assistance or missing payments with mortgage providers and property managers in May

We invite you to download the full report to read on about historical lessons and their limits, consumer protection measures introduced in Australia and around the world and proposed building blocks for a consumer-led recovery. A summary is also available for download.

Please reach out (office@cprc.org.au) if you have any questions or would like to know more about this research initiative over coming months.