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5 December 2017

Opinion: Consumer NZ in today's world

Is Consumer NZ relevant to today’s consumer and if not, why not?

As 2017 closes, the Board continues to work with the executive team on a strategic review of Consumer NZ’s place in today’s world. We’ve run surveys and in-depth interviews addressing the questions: Is Consumer NZ relevant to today’s consumer and if not, why not? We are well down the track with this work and are now facing some challenging insights.

Nearly all consumers do their own research when they don’t feel confident in their buying decisions – using Google, social media, mass media and talking to friends. In certain areas, people are willing to pay for advice e.g. housing, building, financial services, insurance and cars.

We were surprised to find 18 to 34-year-olds are the least confident decision-makers and the most willing to pay for advice in the key areas. This group has more recently been under-represented in our membership and now we know why – we need to connect more to their needs. This is also a group which, as part of a global shift, expects transparency and independence in business, and challenges the status quo.

Unfortunately, a quarter of this group thinks Consumer NZ is part of the government and doesn’t know about our advocacy work. Needless to say, some of the consumer research was hard to digest. We all needed a cup of tea and a lie down afterwards!
Clearly we face challenges to improve the breadth of advice we offer; how we offer it and how consumers will pay a fair price for well-researched advice on purchasing decisions. These are inspiring challenges.

I am excited about finding ways Consumer NZ can work innovatively to help this new generation of consumers, while taking care of our loyal members. We are flat out looking into the key areas of housing, building, financial services, insurance and cars; flat out working on better ways to make our advice and information accessible, affordable and financially viable.

One thing we will be doing more of is making sure people know about our amazing advocacy on behalf of all consumers. Because I look, with pride, at what we have achieved this year.

Along with the Greens and Horticulture NZ, we got the Country of Origin Labelling Bill to its first reading in Parliament. We presented Parliament with a 10,000 signature petition to end sneaky fees and will follow this up with the new Government. Our report on sunscreens showed 3 didn’t work and now 2 have been withdrawn from sale and a third is to be relabelled. We’re campaigning with dentists for added sugar labelling to help cut down the amount of sugary food and drinks kids are exposed to. We have helped set better standards for financial advisers and are working hard to make the insurance industry more open with customers. Our joint Choosing Wisely campaign, with the Council of Medical Colleges, aims to stop patients being subscribed unneeded medical treatments. These are all great successes!

Next year will be even busier with more advocacy – perhaps we just need to boast about our work!

Richard Aston
Consumer NZ Board Chair

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