Financial Rights Legal Centre
Call the National Debt Helpline
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We have also regularly undertaken major research and policy projects that further analyse systemic issues identified in our advice and casework service, such as:

Privacy Practices in General Insurance

Our previous report Open Insurance: The Consumer Data Right in Insurance identified some privacy issues that could potentially arise from the application of the Consumer Data Right to insurance. This report takes a closer look at these issues and sets out to identify current privacy practices of general insurers and the risks that are arise now – in order to set a benchmark upon which to examine any potential future concerns once consumer data became more easily available and portable. The result of this examination is the fourth and final report in our series looking at the future of insurance: Privacy Practices in General Insurance.

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Standardising general insurance definitions

Australians who face devastating property losses following natural disasters such as floods, storms and bushfires confront further hardship when trying to claim on their insurance because of confusing terms and conditions and fine print limitations in their policies.

This report, Standardising General Insurance Definitions  commissioned by Financial Rights Legal Centre calls upon the Australian Government to simplify and standardise key insurance definitions used in home building and contents insurance and regulate the fine print used to exclude and qualify terms.

It examines the Product Disclosure Statements of the home insurance policies of 34 insurers in Australia. It also reports on a series of focus groups conducted to explore consumers’ understandings of these terms, and related concerns.

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Mob Strong Debt Help: Buy now, Pay later

A factsheet for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about the risks of using buy now, pay later services.

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Annual Report 2021

No matter what challenges are thrown at us, the team at Financial Rights Legal Centre remains focused on helping people in the toughest moments of their lives, many who face the risk of losing their home, have lost their job or confront pressures from Australia’s biggest businesses such as banks.

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Annual Report 2020

No matter what challenges are thrown at us, the team at Financial Rights Legal Centre remains focused on helping people in the toughest moments of their lives, many who face the risk of losing their home, have lost their job or confront pressures from Australia’s biggest businesses such as banks.

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Automating General Insurance Disclosure

Financial Rights Legal Centre’s Automating General Insurance Disclosure examined close to 400 cases of Australians being denied their insurance claims for not fully disclosing their driving, insurance claims records or other relevant information. The report argues that governments should work with the general insurance sector to enable the pre-filling of Australians’ driving records and insurance claims history information required for disclosure purposes at the time of purchase of motor vehicle insurance.

Automating General Insurance Disclosure was produced with grant assistance from Ecstra to examine – from a consumer’s perspective – the future of insurance and the new concept of Open Insurance – the application of the Consumer Data Right to the insurance industry.

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Family Violence and General Insurance: Desktop audit of family violence policies, August 2021

Financial Rights has undertaken a desktop audit evaluation of the family violence policies of the 47 subscribers to the General Insurance Code of Practice.

The 2020 General Insurance Code of Practice introduced new provisions requiring subscribers to have family violence policies available online for their customers by July 1 2020.

The desktop audit examined whether subscribers family violence policies met the 11 areas required to be addressed by the Insurance Council of Australia’s Guide to helping customers affected by family violence. Policies were judged as to whether they met the requirement, partly met the requirement or did not meet the requirement at all.

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Exposed: Insurance problems after extreme weather events

While insurers often provide vital services to consumers well, findings from a new report by Financial Rights Exposed: Insurance problems after extreme weather events reveals that good consumer experiences are far from universal. The report findings are based on the experiences of more than 700 clients impacted by extreme weather events between November 2019 and April 2021 – from the “Black Summer bushfires” to Cyclone Seroja, and multiple extreme weather events in between.

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Open Insurance: The Consumer Data Right and Insurance

Financial Rights Legal Centre has released a landmark report on the concept of Open Insurance – the application of the Consumer Data Right to the general insurance industry. The Open Insurance report by Dr Richard Tooth of Sapere provides vital insights into the risks and opportunities for consumers.

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Bushfire Webinar 2020

A detailed resource for financial counsellors: Click here to watch the Bushfire Webinar 2020 on your clients’ financial rights after a bushfire

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Who is making Australians bankrupt?

This report reviews the applications in the Federal Court of Australia to make people bankrupt over the past four financial years (2015–16, 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19). The report was put together after financial counsellors and community lawyers noticed that some creditors regularly bankrupted people while other creditors did not.

The experience of being forced into bankruptcy is highly stressful for people. It involves court proceedings, and substantial costs are added by the process. People can be forced into bankruptcy for a debt as a little as $5,000. This means a small credit card debt could lead to the loss of the family home.

Read the overview here: Who is making Australians bankrupt OVERVIEW July

To view an infographic on what we found in our research, go here: Who is making Australians bankrupt INFOGRAPHIC July

To view the Who is making Australians bankrupt full report, go here: Who is making Australians bankrupt July 2019

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(In)effective Disclosure: An experimental study of consumers purchasing home contents insurance

This world first study, conducted by Monash Professors Justin Malbon (Faculty of Law) and Harmen Oppewal (Monash Business School) examined the effectiveness of home contents product disclosure statements (PDSs) and key fact sheets (KFSs) in assisting consumers to select the best policy that suits their needs.

406 participants across Australia were provided a PDS and/or a KFS and were invited to purchase a home contents insurance policy from a choice of a ‘good’, ‘okay’ and/or ‘bad’ insurance policy.

The study found that:

  • up to 42% of participants chose the worst offer, despite being given the time and opportunity to review the disclosure information
  • when able to choose from three policies, 35% chose the worse policy and only 46% found and selected the best policy;
  • there was no simple and consistent effect of disclosure – while participants were more likely to forego purchasing an insurance policy when they had only access to the PDS the results did not find a clear pattern of understanding where people were provided more or less disclosure information
  • purchasing decisions were not affected by the way in which the consumer viewed the disclosure (i.e. computer or smart phone)

The study was supported with funding from the Financial Rights Legal Centre a community legal centre that specialises in helping consumers understand and enforce their financial rights, especially low income and otherwise marginalised or vulnerable consumers. This funding was in turn sourced from over-collected fire services levies distributed in accordance with a process set up by the Victorian fire services levy monitor for projects benefitting Victorian consumers of insurance.

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A tough nut to crack – Trialling new partnerships and campaign methods to reach tough audiences

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Overwhelmed: An overview of factors that impact upon insurance disclosure comprehension, comparability and decision making, September 2018

Financial Rights has created this short paper to identify and list some of the almost innumerable real world factors that complicate the comprehension, comparability and decision making process of purchasing a home and contents insurance product.

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Guilty until proven innocent: Insurance investigations in Australia

Financial Rights Legal Centre solicitors have long noted that a significant proportion of their work on the Insurance Law Service was devoted to providing advice to policyholders who found themselves subject to insurance investigations. It is accepted that insurers are entitled to investigate to ensure claims are genuine; however, there seems to be a lack of rules and consumer protections for consumers being investigated. There are no specific standards for the conduct of claims investigations in the General Insurance Code of Practice. There are no guidelines for the use of interpreters or independent support people, no right to have the interview held in a neutral location, no reminder or suggestion to seek legal advice and no interview time limits.

This Report Guilty until proven innocent takes a close look at investigations in general insurance – the investigation process, the lived experience of consumers subject to investigations and the matrix of consumer protections in place. It draws on a number of resources, including case studies of our clients, a survey of our callers, interviews with insurers and investigators, an analysis of Financial Ombudsman determinations and a range of information from academic research to government reports.

Amongst our it’s many findings our research found that:

  • Close to one in four calls to the Insurance Law Service are from policyholders with concerns relating to insurance investigations.
  • The average insurance investigation dispute last 18 months, some taking 3 years. A lot of consumers withdraw their claims because of the onerous demands placed on them by the investigation.
  • There are little to no safeguards in place to protect consumers from the worst excess of the insurance investigation industry.

The private investigator sector is like the ‘wild west’ – licensing is a mess with vast differences across the states and few, if any consumer protections.

This Report puts forward 14 recommendations including that the industry establish a set of best practice standards for insurance investigations to be included in the General Insurance Code of Practice.

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The Stressed Finance Landscape Data Analysis

consumer report which was recently commissioned jointly by the Consumer Action Law Centre, Melbourne, Good Shepherd Micro-Finance and the Financial Rights Legal Centre, Sydney. The report has been provided by Digital Finance Analytics (DFA), which completed its analysis using insights from the DFA household survey, which is an omnibus that engages with 26,000 households a year about their finances.

A report by Digital Finance Analytics and Monash University Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies (CLARS). This research was commissioned by Consumer Action Law Centre, Good Shepherd Microfinance, and
Financial Rights Legal Centre. Research was conducted by Digital Finance Analytics and the Centre for Commercial Law and Regulatory Studies at Monash University, using their proprietary tools and methods.

This report draws on quantitative and qualitative survey data collected by DFA over the past 10 years. The report reviews detailed data from the 2005, 2010 and 2015 surveys as a means to dissect and analyse the longitudinal trends. The data results are averaged across Australia to provide a comprehensive national picture of the financial behaviour of Australians, with a particular focus on the role and impact of payday lending.

The DFA report is based on consumers responses to an omnibus survey that interfaces with more than 26,000 Australian households each year. The report, among other things demonstrates the tremendous growth of the payday lending industry in the last ten years, the growth in the number and type of Australians using payday loans and a variety of demographic and qualitative information about those users.

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Adding Public Value: The integration of frontline services & law reform in the NSW Community Legal Sector

This Report was prepared for the Financial Rights Legal Centre & Community Legal Centres NSW by Judith Stubbs & Associates. The Report seeks to understand, document and quantify the impact of linking policy and law reform as part of an integrated service provided by CLCs in NSW. It also seeks to test the claims made by the sector and academics in relation to the value of policy and law reform.


  • Law reform or systemic advocacy activities were generally seen as important and effective, typically using 10% of a centre’s resources
  • Of the ten case studies, six provided significant benefits across a range of areas and to larger groups often characterised by disadvantage and vulnerability. In another three cases, there was a significant benefit to a small group characterised by significant disadvantage.
  • The study finds that policy and law reform activities undertaken by Community Legal Centres provide good value to society, are generally of high merit, and meet the social and economic objectives of government and the sector when assessed against key outcome measures.
  • This study finds that there is an important role for the sector in continuing its work in policy and law reform, integrated with front line services, to maximise the efficient use of resources, further the objectives of government, and support access to justice for all people, particularly those most disadvantaged in Australian society.

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Credit Law Toolkit

New Commonwealth law commenced on 1 July 2010 governing consumer credit contracts (home loans, personal loans, motor vehicle loans), consumer leases and loans for residential investment property. This is the biggest change to the regulation of credit in Australia since the Uniform Consumer Credit Code was introduced in 1996.

The Credit Law Toolkit is a plain English guide to the credit law specifically designed for financial counsellors and generalist community/public lawyers. This new national publication covers the most important practical aspects of the credit law and includes:

  1. a description of the law
  2. sample letters for dealing with common client problems
  3. other useful resources

This toolkit is not meant to cover every technical aspect of the Credit Law. The intention is to cover in detail those parts of the Credit Law that caseworkers regularly use when advising consumers. This toolkit is aimed at both financial counsellors and lawyers, particularly those lawyers in legal aid offices and generalist community legal centres who do a range of civil law work, but do not necessarily specialise in credit law. This toolkit is intended to assist financial
counsellors to assist their clients more effectively, but not to replace timely legal advice.

The Credit Law Toolkit can be found online on the Legal Aid NSW website:

The Credit Law Toolkit is currently being updated by the Financial Rights Legal Centre to reflect recent legal developments and the new edition will be uploaded to the Legal Aid NSW website in due course.

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The Mortgage Stress Handbook

This handbook is a practical guide for people having trouble with their mortgage.  Getting behind on your repayments for a home loan is stressful. This handbook will help guide you to get a repayment arrangement in place with your lender.  It explains your options and it has sample documents you can use and a list of useful contacts.

This edition of the Mortgage Stress Handbook was written by the Financial Rights Legal Centre (then known as the Consumer Credit Legal Centre) in 2011 with input from Legal Aid NSW. This edition reflects the changes brought in under the new national regulatory framework for credit. The first edition was written by Legal Aid NSW in 2009.

The Handbook is available online at  Or free copies are available from Legal Aid NSW by calling 02 9219 5028.

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Credit Reporting: Getting it right for consumers

Access to credit is important to consumers, and it is increasingly difficult to live a “normal” life in today’s society without credit. Despite this, most consumers are unaware of the details of the invisible system of information exchange that has the power to greatly influence their ability to access credit – the credit reporting system.

The Credit Reporting: Getting it right for consumers reports on the consumer experience with the current credit reporting system, and analyses the various issues and problems faced by consumers. The project also questions the extent to which these problems faced by consumers are addressed by the current regulatory and self-regulatory framework.

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Debt Collection Research Project

CCLC released its ‘Report in relation to Debt Collection’ in April 2004. The report, produced with support from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, reviewed the law in relation to debt collection, and consulted with industry and consumer stakeholders. In partnership with the Australian Consumers’ Association, we surveyed consumers regarding their experience of debt collection practices.

The level of consumer debt in Australia has been growing at unprecedented rates. At the same time there have been changes in debt collection practices, including increased outsourcing of debt collection to specialised debt collection agencies, and considerable consolidation of the debt collection industry resulting in a number of large, listed companies operating across state borders.

The report identifies a number of issues of concern, including harassment, collecting old debts, credit reporting, issues in relation to proof of debt, and other unethical debt collection practices.

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Finance and Mortgage Broker Research Project

CCLC was commissioned by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) to conduct a research project on finance and mortgage brokers operating in Australia. We set out to look at some key aspects of the broker industry in Australia (such as fee/commission structures, access to lenders, etc) as well as the consumer issues that arise out of the use of broker services. The Report was released in March 2003, and contains an extensive analysis of the Australian broker industry, the regulation of brokers, the effectiveness of consumer redress, international regulation of brokers, and suggestions for reform.

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