December - January 2021

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11 Issues

in this issue

2 min
finding strength in unity

Idon’t think I’ve ever been so happy to pen a December editorial! While 2020 was a challenging year, 2021 had even more surprises in store for us. At CHOICE, I’ve been amazed at what we’ve been able to achieve alongside our members and supporters despite the difficulties that everybody has been living through. Just over a month ago, we passed an important milestone, exceeding 200,000 memberships for the first time since 2009. We’ve been thrilled to see this growth because, if anything, the events of the past few years have demonstrated that in a crisis, an organisation like ours is more important than ever. Our battles with hand sanitiser are a nice example. When it suddenly became an essential product in 2020, all sorts of businesses began selling it. But CHOICE supporters soon…

1 min

Telemarketing business fined by ACMA The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) recently slapped a telemarketing business with a $102,120 fine for calling people whose numbers were on the Do Not Call register. On 880 occasions, telemarketers working for Information Support Australia (which trades as the Super Information Team) called to offer people a review of their superannuation and to connect them with a financial adviser. With so many people facing financial difficulties due to COVID restrictions, unlawful marketing by financial services is currently an ACMA compliance priority. “Unwanted telemarketing causes frustration and anxiety, and the Do Not Call Register is your phone’s equivalent of a ‘No junk mail’ sticker on your letterbox,” says ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin. “Super Information Team did not have adequate compliance systems in place to prevent the…

2 min
commonwealth bank finally drops dollarmites

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s controversial school banking program Dollarmites was cancelled across the country in late October, following years of campaigning by CHOICE and other critics of school banking programs. The move followed a series of bans by state governments. New South Wales announced in mid-October that Dollarmites was no longer welcome at schools in that state, taking the lead from Queensland, Victoria and the ACT. The state bans followed a long-running CHOICE campaign that included a Shonky Award and meetings with state education ministers, urging them to drop the program. Commonwealth Bank announced it would be ending the 90-year-old program nationally from the end of 2021. The bank may have billed Dollarmites as a financial literacy initiative aimed at teaching kids how to save, but in reality the marketing program was a…

1 min
colonial first state super misleads members

Colonial First State Investments was ordered by the Federal Court to pay a $20 million fine in late October for misleading or deceptive conduct on at least 12,978 occasions when communicating to its superannuation members. The tactic was an effort to convince members to stay with the firm’s FirstChoice Fund instead of switching to a MySuper product. Among the glaring falsehoods trotted out by Colonial First State: telling members that legislative changes required Colonial to contact them and direct them to stay in the FirstChoice Fund, and failing to tell members that if they didn’t make a choice they’d be moved to a MySuper product as is legally required. “The $20 million penalty handed down to Colonial is a timely reminder to superannuation trustees not to mislead members for their own benefit,”…

1 min
asic says whistleblower policies not complying with laws

“Policies must clearly set out … protections” ASIC has written to the CEOs of large private companies, public companies and superannuation entities urging them to ensure their whistleblower protections are in line with legal requirements. The regulator says companies must have policies that reflect the stronger whistleblower protection regime that came into effect in July 2019. ASIC says due to weak company policies, whistleblowers may not know how they’re protected, or feel unsure about how to speak up. This could lead to entities missing opportunities to identify and address potential misconduct at an early stage, they say. ASIC commissioner Sean Hughes says, “Whistleblowers help companies and registered superannuation entities identify problems and issues that they need to address to comply with the law and improve their performance. Whistleblower policies are essential for encouraging…

1 min
international travel insurance more important than ever

Since 1 November 2021, fully vaccinated Australians can depart Australia without seeking an exemption. While this would be a big relief for people who were separated from family overseas, it’s not a return to the pre-COVID international travel environment. Border settings and quarantine requirements in other countries continue to change, often at short notice. Before setting off, closely check the requirements of airlines, transit and destination countries (see, as well as return arrangements to Australia. Travel insurance is essential, especially since some destinations require compulsory insurance cover. Check details of your insurance coverage, particularly how it applies to COVID-19 medical and cancellation cover. Example scenario: Angela and Thomas book one of the first flights out of Sydney to London to see their family. But a few days before their flight, Thomas is…