AFCA modifies approach due to COVID-19

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has revealed that it will modify its approach to dispute resolution to take into account all regulatory and legislative changes announced as part of Australia’s COVID-19 response.

AFCA Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman David Locke said, “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.

“We also recognise the pressures on small business owners and consumers at this very difficult time.

“AFCA has activated its significant event response plan that identifies and fast-tracks COVID-19 related complaints. We have also activated our business continuity plan which ensures that we will be able to continue to operate under changing conditions.”

AFCA has established a support hotline (1800 337 444), to ensure a priority service is provided for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the hotline, AFCA has setup an online COVID-19 information hub that is regularly updated with information for consumers and small businesses (afca.org.au/covid-19).

Although complaints about COVID-19 will be prioritised and fast-tracked, AFCA will take into account the circumstances and context in which financial firms are currently operating when considering complaints. 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.

AFCA has encouraged financial firms to continue 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.