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Monday, 11 November 1985
Page: 1880


Senator RICHARDSON —Is the Minister representing the Attorney-General aware of the Attorney-General's comments regarding national legislation to protect consumers and customers from credit card fraud? Given that credit card fraud is emerging as a major white collar crime with more than 3,386 cases of lost or stolen plastic cards reported in New South Wales alone in the last year, when will uniform legislation be introduced? In the meantime, is any form of protection available for those whose cards are misused and whose funds are stolen in this way?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of the response by the Attorney-General to a question on this matter in the House of Representatives on 14 October. The Attorney-General, in his answer, referred to the Commonwealth working group of officers examining the rights and obligations of users and providers of electronic funds transfer systems. I am advised that the working group has now completed its report and the Government will give attention to the question of legislation in this area in considering the recommendations of the report. If it is concluded that legislative protection is required the Government has no doubt that State and Territory Ministers responsible for consumer affairs will give high priority to the need for national uniformity and to avoiding delay.

At present, the obligations of card holders are largely determined by the terms and conditions of the contracts they enter into when accepting a card. This includes taking reasonable care of both card and personal identification number to help prevent fraudulent transactions. In the case of Bankcard, the liability of the card holder is limited to $50 in the event of the unauthorised use of the card. However, with other types of cards which are used at electronic terminals, the card holder generally faces unlimited liability until the financial institution is notified of the theft or loss of the card. It can, of course, take some time for the consumer to become aware that the card is missing and by that time all the consumer's funds can be removed from the account.


Senator Chipp —What is an example of that type?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I guess building society cards and other sorts of cards where it can be done by shoving the card in a machine. There are a number of such institutions around the place that run card holder accounts of that kind. I have not got any briefing as to what they are in chapter and verse but I can find out if the honourable senator would like me to. I understand that most financial institutions usually take a sympathetic view when a consumer has funds withdrawn without authorisation. I trust institutions will continue to take this approach until a long term solution, which will, no doubt, involve in due course legislation, is achieved to this apparently inequitable situation.