AFCA to ‘fast-track’ COVID-19 complaints
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority says it will prioritise and fast-track complaints relating to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as establish a support hotline for those impacted.
It will take into account the circumstances and context in which lenders and other financial firms are currently operating when considering complaints, AFCA said in a statement.
The complaints body said it is encouraging financial firms to:
- Work constructively and reasonably with affected consumers and small businesses during any period of disruption, particularly consumers and small businesses in hardship, or who may be experiencing difficulty repaying debt.
- Openly and transparently communicating with consumers and small businesses about any delays they may experience in decision-making, claims or complaints handling caused by the impact of COVID-19 on their business.
“AFCA understands that firms may be putting in place alternate staffing arrangements and may not be in a position to quickly act on requests for information,” it said.
“AFCA will work with industry peak bodies and consumer groups as well as directly with AFCA members to ensure we understand the challenges the financial services industry and consumers are facing.
“AFCA supports the changes to responsible lending obligations proposed by the government and the initiatives designed to assist small businesses that encounter financial difficulty or require additional access to credit due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In addition, a support hotline has been established (1800 337 444) as well as an online COVID-19 information hub that is regularly updated with information for consumers and small businesses.
AFCA chief executive and chief ombudsman David Locke said the complaints body will change its dispute resolution approach by supporting recent government and banking sector initiatives aimed at assisting small businesses and consumers.
“We will take into account the unprecedented circumstances that financial firms are currently operating in when considering any complaints that may arise, as well as any revised regulatory standards or guidance that may apply,” Mr Locke said.
“AFCA’s approach to handling COVID-19-related complaints will align with the statements released recently by the Council of Financial Regulators.”
Adrian Flores is the deputy editor of SMSF Adviser. Before that, he was the features editor for ifa (Independent Financial Adviser), InvestorDaily, Risk Adviser, Fintech Business and Adviser Innovation.