AFCA opens for business

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has made public its strategy and new brand ahead of its national launch on 1 November 2018.

The strategy includes AFCA’s goals, values and vision. AFCA’s purpose has been defined as – To provide fair, independent and effective solutions for financial disputes. The dispute resolution authority has given a commitment in its new strategy to proactively work with consumers, small business and the financial services sector to resolve and reduce financial disputes.

On publishing AFCA’s new strategy, AFCA’s independent Chair, Helen Coonan said, “AFCA has a clear vision – to be a world-class ombudsman service, raising standards and minimising disputes, meeting community needs, and trusted by all.  Our strategy reflects a new direction and vision for external dispute resolution for financial complaints in Australia”.

The new independent Ombudsman body plans to do this through innovative solutions, education programs and communication with all stakeholders. A priority for AFCA will be to influence reform in the financial services sector by raising standards and improving internal practices to avoid and resolve disputes. By doing this and by providing a fair, ethical and trusted service it seeks to help re-build trust and confidence.

Consumers and small businesses will benefit from having increased access to redress as AFCA will have significantly higher monetary limits and compensation caps than were available under the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO):

  • AFCA will be able to hear consumer complaints where the value of the dispute is less than $1 million and will be able to award compensation of up to $500,000 [for insurance brokers the compensation cap will be $250,000]. This will be almost double the exiting limits of FOS and CIO.
  • In the case of small business credit complaints, a small business will be able to have their complaint heard where it relates to a credit facility of less than $5 million and will be eligible for compensation of up to $1 million. This will be almost triple the existing limits of FOS and CIO.
  • In the case of a small business primary production dispute, AFCA will be able to award compensation of up to $2 million.
  • AFCA will retain an unlimited monetary jurisdiction for superannuation complaints.

AFCA will be open and ready to take complaints from consumers and small business and work with the financial sector from 1 November 2018. The significantly increased financial thresholds mean its services will be open to handle many more financial disputes than were ever covered by the predecessor schemes.

The body’s strategy places a significant emphasis on accessibility of its services and on the fairness and independence of its decision making. AFCA Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman, David Locke said, “AFCA will offer an easy to use, efficient, timely and impartial scheme, that is free for all complainants. We are committed to actively engaging with diverse audiences, including those who may need extra help.”

“AFCA is committed to ensuring that our decisions, actions and services are at all times fair and independent, transparent and accountable, honest and respectful, and proactive and customer focused.” You can view the AFCA strategy here.