Q. Given the allegations raised during the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, I am seriously considering raising a complaint about the advice I received in relation to a bank loan. Who should I complain to?
A. From 1 November 2018, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is the newly appointed disputes resolution authority to hear complaints from consumers and small businesses in relation to financial advice, investments, Superannuation, insurance or credit matters. AFCA replaces three separate complaints handling services; Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS), Credit and Investments Ombudsmen (CIO) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT).
AFCA will be able to hear consumer complaints where the value of the dispute is up to $1 million and will be able to award compensation of up to $500,000. This is double the previous limits in place for FOS and CIO. In terms of Superannuation complaints, there is no limit on the claim amount.
Small business will be able to have a complaint heard where it relates to a credit facility of up to $5 million and compensation of up to $1 million.
There is no charge to submit a complaint but a financial firm you are complaining about must be an AFCA member. Any determinations made by AFCA are binding on the financial firm provided you as the complainant accept their finding. However, if the dispute relates to Superannuation, then the determinations are binding on both parties.
Before a claim can be investigated by AFCA you must complain directly to the financial firm first and seek resolution using their internal disputes resolution process. If you cannot resolve the matter in a timely manner, escalate the matter to AFCA. You will need to be able to clearly identify the issue, identify the loss you have experienced, be clear in terms of what outcome you are looking for and have requisite documentary evidence to support your complaint.
New complaints can be lodged with AFCA via their online complaint form www.afca.org.au, or by written submission via e-mail or mail to AFCA. For further information contact AFCA on 1300 931 678.
Time limits do apply within which a complaint must be submitted to AFCA. Limits vary from 28 days to six years depending on the type of complaint. Visit the website for further information.
There are some complaints that cannot be considered by AFCA. Generally, these are complaints about fee or price increases, investment performance (unless as the result of inappropriate advice), estate disputes, claims in excess of financial limits, previously heard matters; whether by a court, tribunal or predecessor complaints handling scheme. If your complaint relates to a breach of privacy, the matter should be referred to the Privacy Commissioner www.oiac.gov.au.
If your matter relates to financial advice, the financial firm you are in dispute with may be a member of an industry professional association. If they are a member of either the Financial Planning Association www.fpa.asn.au or the Association of Financial Advisers www.afa.asn.au you may be able to resolve a dispute via their complaints handling process.
You may also contact The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) www.asic.gov.au to make a complaint and obtain information about your rights.
Q. What happens to complaints currently being investigated by either Financial Ombudsmen Service (FOS), Credit and Investments Ombudsmen (CIO) or the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT)?
A. If you have an existing claim with FOS or CIO, the determination will be made with AFCA but under the current FOS or CIO terms or reference or rules.
If you have a current complaint before the SCT, the SCT will continue to hear this case provided the complaint was lodged prior to 1 November 2018.