CPRC’s Sector Scorecard developed in partnership with Roy Morgan, provides a comparative ranking of key Australian essential services markets when it came to supporting consumers during the pandemic.
Data collected from 6,900 Australian consumers in monthly surveys from May to December 2020 analysed consumer experiences across six essential service markets – telecommunications, energy, credit and personal finance, insurance, private rental and mortgage providers.
We explored five important aspects of consumer experience as part of this research:
- Which providers were proactive in adopting supportive practices such as offering consumers payment assistance, concessions, waiving fees and charges or reducing the cost of service
- Which providers undertook negative practices which made consumers worse off such as unsolicited pressure-sales, issued payment ultimatums or debt collection
- The extent to which consumers reported receiving fair and transparent information from providers
- Whether consumers received helpful advice and customer service when it came to managing usage and payments
- Which sectors delivered the best user experience and accessibility, being the easiest to contact
- Mortgage providers delivered the best experience to consumers, ranking first overall as well as across each category of consumer experience.
- Telco and credit and personal finance providers came equal last for overall consumer experience.
- Telco and internet providers performed particularly poorly for user experience and accessibility, delivered the least proactive support such as payment assistance and ranked second last for helpful advice and customer experience.
- Credit and personal finance providers were worst performers when it came to negative provider practices such as unsolicited sales, debt collection and increasing costs of service, and also ranked second last for providing fair and transparent information in contracts or agreements.
- The rental sector ranked fourth overall, scoring particularly poorly on fair and transparent information, and ranking last for provision of helpful advice and customer service. Renters also reported receiving significant variation in both between category scores and within certain categories over the 8 month period.
- While the energy and insurance sectors have not featured as delivering particularly poor experiences to consumers either overall or in particular categories, they did not deliver overly positive outcomes either.
Policy responses required
- Introduction of clear, effective consumer protections in the telco industry via the Consumer Safeguards Review
- The development of a vulnerability strategy for the telecommunications sector by ACMA
- Implementation of Royal Commission into Financial Services recommendations
- Application of credit regulation to buy-now-pay-later products and services
- More consistent, clear entitlements and support for renters in payment difficulty post-pandemic