The new complaints authority will combine the responsibilities of three current bodies, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, and increased monetary limits will give it more power to redress wronged Australians, according to Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer.
The bill outlining AFCA’s establishment, Ms O’Dwyer noted, will include the transitional arrangements from the current three-body system to the new one (which will be complete by 1 July 2018), the enshrinement of existing super complaints processes and features, and the ability for the minister to appoint a minority of the group’s board, to ensure it has the appropriate experience when it commences.
The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) said it welcomed the changes to the dispute resolution system, describing it as a “win for consumers”.
“The ABA strongly supports moving to a one-stop shop to simplify how customers resolve complaints,” said Anna Bligh, the CEO of the ABA.
“External dispute resolution is an important alternative to the court system as it is free for customers to use and doesn’t require formal legal representation.”
Ms Bligh said the ABA “looks forward” to working with government to oversee the new authority’s implementation.
The Consumer Action Law Centre (which advocates for Australian financial services consumers) said it was pleased to see that AFCA would build on existing complaint bodies rather than “there being a competitive selection process for its authorisation”, adding that ombudsman schemes have been a “hallmark” of good consumer protection.
However, Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody noted that the full scope of the body’s role has not yet been publicly discussed.
“The details of the jurisdiction of the new AFCA is yet to be determined,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to further consultation on its terms of reference to ensure it’s an improved new scheme, building on the existing ombudsman services.”