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Household cost concerns ease amidst overall economic gloom

New CHOICE report finds energy providers most distrusted by consumers

22 October 2015

CHOICE has released its latest national Consumer Pulse Report,[1] showing an easing of major household cost concerns in September, accompanied by a surge in Australians ranking the economy as 'poor'.

"We've seen the cycle of household bill pressures ease as we move past insurance renewal time, with less concern over home, health and car insurance from June to September," says CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications, Matt Levey.

"Concern over fuel prices has also dropped significantly, falling 8% following a 9% rise last quarter. This underlines the volatility of fuel prices, with so much dictated by international markets, and the fact we should be doing more to help Australians purchase fuel efficient vehicles.

"While day-to-day cost concerns are easing, our survey recorded its highest level of pessimism about the bigger economic picture, with 37% of Australians ranking the economy as poor in September, compared to just 25% this time last year," Mr Levey says.

CHOICE's latest nationally representative survey was undertaken in the days immediately following last month's Federal Government leadership change.

It showed electricity prices remained on top of household cost-of-living concern for the sixth successive quarter (79%), followed by food and groceries (easing 5% to 73%) and fuel (70%).

The latest survey also ranked the trustworthiness of 10 different service providers, with consumers putting doctors (74% 'trust') and pharmacists (70% 'trust') on top.[2]

Consumers were most likely to say they did not trust energy providers (44% 'don't trust') and appliance salespeople (42% 'don't trust'), followed by telco providers (38% 'don't trust') and mortgage brokers (32% 'don't trust').

"It is no surprise that so many households distrust energy providers when this essential service remains the number one cost pressure," Mr Levey says.

"As last week's Vinnies energy report showed, there are huge question marks over whether energy retail markets are working for Australian consumers, with the current approach to competition proving expensive and confusing.[3]

"It's also revealing to see mortgage brokers ranked equal with energy providers (14% 'trust') and only just above appliance salespeople (12%) in terms of trust.

"This suggests that consumers have little confidence that when they use a mortgage broker, they are receiving  the best recommendations for their personal situation.

"There is clearly an issue with commissions, and a perception that payments distort recommendations that are given to consumers – whether it's from someone selling a mortgage, an appliance or financial advice.

"It is also not surprising that some of the most deliberately complex and confusing sectors – energy and telecommunications – are the most actively distrusted by Australians," Mr Levey says.

Read the full CHOICE Consumer Pulse findings at

[1] Total sample in wave 6 is n=1032. Fieldwork was conducted between 15 and 21 September 2015.

CHOICE Consumer Pulse was launched in June 2014. The survey was designed and analysed by CHOICE with fieldwork by GMI/Lightspeed Research Australia, which is a member of the Australian Market & Social Research Society (AMSRS), abides strictly by the Code of Professional Behaviour for market research and panel management in Australia, and complies with Australian Privacy Principles. At least 1000 Australians aged 18–75 are surveyed every quarter. Each wave's data is weighted to ensure it is representative of the Australian population based on the ABS Census 2011.

Notes on reporting of figures: Unless otherwise noted, responses about concerns with expenses are based on the total population, including people who do not have a given expense. We've done this to represent the overall views of Australians.

[2] Lack of consumer trust in business sectors/services:

[3] See 'The National Electricty Market – Still Winging It: Observations from the Vinnies' Tariff-Tracking Project', September 2015

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