Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s (AFCA) Chief Operating Officer, Justin Untersteiner has updated members on changes being made at the Ombudsman service in reponse to the COVID-19 situation.
He said, “In relation to complaint resolution, AFCA will take into account the circumstances and context in which lenders and other financial firms are currently operating.”
He has assured that AFCA will work closely with affected consumers and financial firms to provide tailored support in the handling of a complaint, “This may include additional time to respond to complaints and provide submissions and whether your teams face any challenges attending conciliations. This recognises that firms may be instigating alternate staffing arrangements and that some consumers may not be in a position to quickly act on requests for information.”
He also mentioned that AFCA has enacted their business continuity plan, and are taking precautions to look after the well being of their people, while also ensuring they continue to service consumers and members.
On two consecutive days, Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 March, half of the AFCA workforce will work from home, allowing to load-test their phone and IT systems before their teams start a work-from-home model.
This means that you may not be able to contact an AFCA team member via phone on the 18th and 19th of March, the main AFCA phone line will still be operating on both days: 1800 931 678 will still be working.
AFCA has also decided to cancel all on-site meetings involving external guests, and also the Member Forums and Group Liaison Meetings. Where possible live streaming and video conferencing will be used.
Untersteiner said, “We are working through the implications developing in this new landscape and rapidly changing environment. We have also activated our significant event response plan in relation to COVID-19, recognising that it has the potential to result in significant numbers of related complaints coming to AFCA, allowing us to triage them.”
More information, updates and frequently asked questions about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available on the AFCA website.