07/02/2008 - 10:28

‘Book up’ practice comes under consumer spotlight in WA

07/02/2008 - 10:28

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The state government is seeking public comment on an informal type of credit known as 'book up'.

‘Book up’ practice comes under consumer spotlight in WA

The state government is seeking public comment on an informal type of credit known as 'book up'.

The practice of 'booking up' goods or 'running a tab or account' has a long history of use in many rural and remote communities to purchase food and supplies.

In some cases, 'book up' involves shopkeepers holding consumers' bank debit cards and even their PIN details, then reimbursing themselves for goods supplied on credit, when the consumers receive money in their accounts.

"A survey of indigenous consumers conducted last year showed that credit concerns were frequent. In particular, 'book up' came in for significant mention by indigenous consumers in remote parts of Western Australia," consumer protection minister Sheila McHale said.

"The issues surrounding 'book up' are complex and problems with it involve a range of factors such as poor financial literacy, limited credit alternatives and general social disadvantage in some communities."

The Department of Consumer Protection has released a discussion paper and is undertaking consultation throughout remote communities. The aim is to obtain comment from not only consumers and businesses, but also community organisations, banking and finance industries and local government authorities.

"We will also use this as an opportunity to target specific problems in the Kimberley, and will seek a suitable training provider to deliver financial literacy education programs to vulnerable consumers," Ms McHale said.

"The Government is keen to measure the real impact of 'book up' on consumers and traders.

"This approach hopefully will avoid any knee-jerk reactions which could interfere with a system that may, in some instances, be working quite successfully.

"Obtaining the discussion paper and having a say is easy and will be very valuable in learning more about the issues facing vulnerable indigenous consumers."

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