WHILE 79% of Australians are members of a co-operative, like RACQ or NRMA, just 16% actually know it, research from the Australia Institute revealed today.
A study by the left-leaning institute looked at co-operatives, including the roadside assistance groups, credit unions and member-owned superannuation groups.
It reported the widespread community reliance on co-operatives showed such organisations had "significant advantages" over their commercial rivals.
"In relation to home mortgages, for example, members of mutually-owned banks, credit unions and building societies are estimated to save an average of 0.4% on their mortgage interest rate which, for an average loan, generates savings of $76,417 over the life of the loan and reduces the repayment period by three years," the study says.
Report authors Richard Denniss and David Baker said that while big banks and companies like mining companies spent a lot of money advertising their services and products, co-operatives spent "far less", meaning people had a lower understanding of the role co-ops played in Australian society.
"Of course, the relative lack of expenditure on advertising means that the cost of providing services to members is significantly lower," they wrote.
"The big four banks spent more than $1 billion on advertising in 2011, all of which was, in turn, passed on to their customers through higher interest rates and fees.
"Ironically, the lower level of expenditure on advertising by co-ops and mutuals means that many members, and potential members, are unaware of the low prices and high quality services that are often available.
"The pair wrote that since the global financial crisis, more people were calling for an alternative to commercial service provision.
"Paradoxically, many of those people who express a desire for something new are likely to be members of at least one such alternative," they wrote.
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