Financial complaints could take longer to resolve, with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority lengthening the time frame for financial firms to respond to issues raised by individuals and businesses.
The change will see a nine-day extension come into immediate effect due to COVID-19 that is applicable to all complaints, including those relating to financial difficulty.
AFCA noted that while financial firms have previously had 21 days to respond when AFCA has notified them of a complaint, they will now have 30 days.
CEO and chief ombudsman David Locke said AFCA is aware of the difficult circumstances financial firms and the community are facing, and an extension “ensures all parties involved had sufficient time to work together to resolve the complaint”.
He outlined that “AFCA has been talking to key stakeholders and has heard the complexities facing financial firms, small business and consumers in the current environment”.
“We have worked with ASIC to get an extension to the time financial firms have to respond to complaints that have already been through internal dispute resolution processes.”
He explained that the extension “allows financial firms more time to resolve disputes with their customers, without the need to come to AFCA for an external dispute resolution service”.
It reportedly recognises the pressure parts of the financial services industry are under, with Mr Locke flagging “unprecedented levels of customer queries and financial hardship requests”.
“It also gives consumers more realistic expectations about when they will get a response.”
From a consumer perspective, the CEO conceded it is important to note “that if a financial difficulty case has been brought to AFCA, then in most cases, no enforcement action can be taken while the matter is with us”.