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Consumer NZ launches Utua atu to help vulnerable consumers

Consumer NZ is excited to announce its Utua atu initiative. The scheme, which means pay it forward in te reo Māori, lets people and organisations donate Consumer NZ memberships to vulnerable consumers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to use the not-for-profit’s services.

“All New Zealanders deserve a fair deal. We should expect fair pricing and good service, our food to be honestly priced at the checkout, our landlords to treat us properly and not to be misled about our rights on faulty products. But when this doesn’t happen, not all of us have the knowledge, confidence or capacity to challenge things or ask for help,” Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.

“As an independent not-for-profit, we rely on subscriptions to do the work we do – and we are forever grateful to the support of our members – but we wanted to reach those who are in need but aren’t able to pay for a membership.”

The initiative sees social agencies such as FinCap, Habitat for Humanity, Renters United, and Sustainability Trust find those who would most benefit from a Consumer NZ membership. Corporate donors, including ASB, Chorus, Simplicity and Vodafone, have supported the cause by donating memberships.

"Simplicity is proud to be a founding partner of Utua atu. Encouraging innovative social initiatives simply makes sense and is another way the Simplicity Charitable Trust can help support improving the financial well-being of New Zealanders in need,” Simplicity trustee Sam Stubbs said.

Those gifted a membership will be able to call on Consumer NZ’s expert advisers for support dealing with their consumer issues and have full access to consumer.org.nz.

For Chorus, Utua atu is an opportunity to help New Zealanders who may be struggling with the digital divide.

“Chorus is a big supporter of any initiative that helps vulnerable consumers get advice and advocacy on consumer issues. We know from our own research and experience that the telecommunications industry can be a very confusing one. We also know that, unfortunately, the digital divide has left some consumers behind. We’re very eager to help because we know how much a difference it can make helping consumers learn about our digital world and becoming confident online,” Chorus head of corporate relations Nathan Beaumont said.

ASB sees the initiative as an opportunity to help more New Zealanders make smart financial choices.

“ASB is delighted to support Utua atu. The financial well-being of Kiwis is very important to us and we want to support vulnerable consumers in getting a fair deal and, importantly, to get the same outcomes as everybody else. Being able to make good, informed choices about budgeting and money can help. We see our partnership with Utua atu playing an important part in supporting more Kiwis with access to the tools and information they need to meet their commitments and get on in life,” ASB executive general manager private banking, wealth and insurance Adam Boyd said.

FinCap policy adviser Jake Lilley works regularly with mentors who assist New Zealanders experiencing financial vulnerability.

“An initial group of financial mentors who have taken part in the trial see the clear value of Utua atu for their work assisting whānau on a pathway out of, or away from, hardship. One mentor commented they’d learnt a lot in just a month,” Lilley said.

”Financial problems can often involve many things to deal with all at once and be completely overwhelming. Having a reliable source of information and expertise through Utua atu will help break it all down and get things back on track. Being ripped off just once can make paying for everything very hard, so it’s great to have Consumer there to point out what is a rip-off!”

This sentiment is echoed by Renters United advocate Geordie Rogers.

“Utua atu is an initiative that is all about providing support to those who need it the most, and renters are well represented in that group of people.”

To donate, or learn more about Utua atu, contact Consumer NZ: jennifer@consumer.org.nz

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