Whether individually or as part of a group, this award acknowledges the contribution of those who are working hard to make sure consumers get a better deal.
Our call for nominations for Consumer Champion turned up many dedicated and inspirational candidates for our judges – CHOICE CEO, Nick Stace, CHOICE Council Chair, Jenni Mack, and last year’s CHOICE Consumer Action Award winner, Ian Jarratt.
After considering the nominees’ contributions to Australian consumers and achievements in the past year, our panel chose two outstanding consumer advocates. Adam Brimo, whose innovative and successful Vodafail campaign found widespread support, was given this year’s CHOICE Consumer Champion Award, while lawyer Denis Nelthorpe was acknowledged for his tireless work on behalf of society’s most vulnerable consumers with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Denis Nelthorpe
A lawyer, Denis could have pursued a lucrative legal career in private practice. Instead, he chose to stay in the not-for-profit sector working with the most disadvantaged consumers in our community. He has worked tirelessly on their behalf, whether they’re individuals, groups or community advocacy groups, over a career spanning several decades.
Denis’ achievements include:
- Using settlement funds from the Household Finance Corporations test case to establish a new consumer advocacy centre that became part of the present day’s Consumer Action Law Centre – one of the largest consumer organisations in Australia today.
- Leading the Consumers’ Federation of Australia, where he drove reforms that ensured the federation focuses on small volunteer organisations working in relative isolation on local issues that often have national implications.
- Getting insurance company AAMI to develop a customer charter that sets the benchmark for other insurance companies.
- His work on behalf of low-income and disadvantaged consumers in the insurance industry, raising awareness with government and the industry of the difficulties these consumers face in obtaining affordable insurance.
- His work on bulk consumer debt negotiations, which will change the way financial institutions deal with hardship applications by vulnerable consumers.
- The Taxi Driver Legal Project, his most recent project, which aims to deliver specialist legal advice to low-income taxi drivers, many of whom are recent migrants with limited English, who find themselves underinsured and exposed to massive debts in the event of an accident.
Our judges were impressed by the breadth and legacy of Denis’ involvement in fighting for the rights of vulnerable consumers and his role in mentoring others, acknowledging the high regard in which he’s held.
CHOICE Consumer Champion Award: Adam Brimo
This 23-year-old software engineering graduate set up his Vodafail website in response to problems he and others were experiencing with Vodafone’s mobile network and customer service. The website acts as a conduit, supplying updates and information to Vodafone customers while inviting other consumers to share stories of their problems with the carrier – to the tune of more than 15,000 complaints so far. It attracted national media attention and prompted a class action that more than 22,000 people had joined at the time of writing.
After analysing the complaints made by fellow Vodafone customers via the website, Adam compiled and submitted a report to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and Australian Communications and Media Authority based on their experiences. In the meantime, Vodafone CEO Nigel Dews has apologised and promised to take steps to address network issues and increase the number of customer service staff.
No longer a Vodafone customer and unlikely to personally gain from his campaign’s success, Adam kept going so that others could benefit.
Our judges were impressed by Adam’s savvy activism as he identified a pressing consumer issue and used limited resources to great effect.