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2016: The year of innovation

Time for some big changes in banking, mobile data roaming and internet services.

February 2016

Innovation is shaping up to be the dominant word in our national conversation for 2016.

That's a good thing. We want Australia to be a country that is known for doing great new things. But the challenge for the government will be to ensure that innovation delivers tangible benefits for consumers.

While innovation has driven positive changes in areas like accommodation and point-to-point transport, products and services in some other areas never seem to change – meaning that consumers are left with poor choices that rip them off.

Here's my list of areas where I'd like to see some positive change.

With around $2 trillion of our retirement savings tied up in superannuation, you'd think it would be a hotbed of innovation – but in reality, almost all of the major changes in super have been driven by regulatory pressure. Super funds could have introduced simple, low-fee options years ago but it was only when the government forced them to offer MySuper products that these options became widely available. The industry has done little to stretch above and beyond minimum regulatory requirements, meaning that many consumers simply don't know how to engage with their most important investment.

The banking sector is rich with examples of dusty old products but the best one is credit cards. Despite what credit card providers might do to dress up their offers with rewards schemes and balance transfer deals, the core credit card product today is basically the same as it was 20 years ago – you can get up to 55 days interest-free on purchases but if you fail to repay in full, you get whacked with interest on the full balance. It's a great swindle, so no surprise that no provider has broken from the pack with a new type of offer.

International roaming charges – especially for data – are another big swindle. Given that telcos have worked so hard to get us used to using mobile data for entertainment, news and social contact, you'd think they could make it easier when we travel. When the cost of naively using data overseas can surpass the cost of your airfare, it looks like a deliberate trick.

And when you're at home, wouldn't it be great if your internet service provider would tell you what internet speed they can provide, and what that will allow you to do, before you sign up? Surely they've got access to data from existing customers that would allow them to do this.

Unless you live in an area that has the NBN, finding fast and reliable internet still seems to be a game of chance.

That's the short list – but it's more than enough to keep CHOICE busy through 2016!