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Senate supports ‘keeping consumers posted’

Thursday, 15 June 2017
By Jake Nelson

The Keep Me Posted campaign has won a legislative victory, with the Senate approving a motion calling on the government to ‘bring forward legislation that will give consumers the right to receive communications from companies by post for no extra fee’.

Senator Anne Urquhart.

Tasmanian Senator Anne Urquhart, Chief Opposition Whip in the Senate, tabled the motion on Wednesday June 14, in support of her Labor colleague Tim Hammond MP, Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs. It passed with a majority, with Labor, the Greens, NXT, and independents Jacqui Lambie and Derryn Hinch all voting in favour. “Labor has acted with urgency to successfully pass a motion in both houses of the Federal Parliament drawing attention to the growing practice of utilities, banks and telcos charging pensioners for the dubious privilege of continuing to receive their bills in the mail. Labor’s swift and decisive action on this issue is a big step toward making a real difference in the lives of people who simply cannot afford to pay extra to receive bills they should be receiving for free,” Urquhart said.

According to Urquhart, the average $2.50 fee companies charge for posted documents unfairly hits those with limited internet access. “The burden of these fees weighs most heavily on those on the wrong side of the digital divide – pensioners, low income families who cannot afford computers, and people in the bush with poor access to internet connectivity,” she said.

Kellie Northwood, Keep Me Posted

Kellie Northwood, executive director of Keep Me Posted, hailed this as a big step forward for the campaign. “This is a tremendous win for the Keep Me Posted campaign and the wider paper, print and mail industries who have been working in a collaborated approach with Trade Unions, Australia Post and Community Groups to take a stand against this appalling attack on every Australian’s right to choose how they wish to receive communications.

“The charges are disproportionate to the cost incurred by business. If it is a cost of doing business, it should be included upfront, so consumers can accurately assess in an open market rather than be hit by hidden fees later in the transactional process. We ask all sides of politics to support legislative change and provide a representative voice to Australians,” Northwood said.

Senator James McGrath.

Queensland Senator James McGrath, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, said Small Business Minister Michael McCormack is investigating the matter and reviewing Australian Consumer Law provisions. “While the government agrees with the need to protect consumers and the sentiment of the motion, more work is needed before legislation can be considered. The minister has met with consumer groups, including Keep Me Posted, on this matter on numerous occasions and is happy to discuss the process and advise senators in the near future,” McGrath said.

 

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