Centrepay Reform Targeting Exploitation

Dept of Social Services

The Albanese Government has renewed its commitment to Centrepay reform, today announcing a range of short- and long-term priorities to improve the program.

Australians who rely on Services Australia’s direct bill paying service Centrepay are encouraged to join advocates, business and other stakeholders to share their views and experiences as part of a nation-wide call for public submissions, which opened today.

The review will seek input on safeguards and protections for customers to reduce financial harm, ensuring the right products and services are available through Centrepay.

The Agency has developed the discussion paper in collaboration with other government departments and a peak advisory group which includes Anglicare, Mob Strong Debt Help, Australian Council of Social Service and Economic Justice Australia.

It’s clear the voluntary bill paying service isn’t always operating as intended, and Services Australia isn’t waiting for the outcome of the review to act, with three more energy companies being referred to the Australian Energy Regulator.

Services Australia is also prioritising support for customers who have Centrepay arrangements in place with Urban Rampage, following a decision by ASIC to permanently stop Centrepay’s use in the company’s stores. The agency is carefully reviewing the ASIC decision in the broader context of the current review of the program.

This is in addition to a suite of immediate changes made by Services Australia to address some key concerns and put better protections in place for all customers.

This includes:

  • Actively communicating with customers about businesses who are restricted under ASIC stop orders.
  • Increased scrutiny, accountability and consequences for businesses that overcharge customers.
  • Wraparound, specialist support for customers who may be owed significant overpayments.
  • The introduction of additional conditions for clothing and footwear deductions, including a mandatory $250 cap on Centrepay arrangements.

Submissions to the review close at 11.59pm on Tuesday 2 July 2024, and can be made online here: https://engage.dss.gov.au/centrepay-reform/

A report on the consultation’s outcomes will be made public once complete.

Quotes from the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, Minister for Government Services

“We know Centrepay can be an excellent tool to financially empower people, but predatory behaviour from some sectors has undermined the overall confidence in the program.”

“We want to send a message to businesses that predatory behaviour is unacceptable, and we’ll continue to work with regulators and put greater safeguards in place to ensure vulnerable people are protected.”

“We are working with other government agencies, key industry stakeholders and the community to ensure they can help shape the future of Centrepay in the best interests of the Australian community.”

“Our firm focus is on the people. We want Centrepay to remain as a safe and useful financial tool for people on income support, but we must work across government to stamp out predatory behaviour.”

/Public Release. View in full here.