Australia’s financial regulator ASIC has stated that it welcomes the passage through Parliament of the Bill to establish the new Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
The AFCA will start accepting complaints no later than November 1, 2018.
AFCA is the culmination of more than 20 months of public consultation and inquiry, commencing with the review of the dispute resolution framework by an independent panel led by Melbourne Law School’s Professor Ian Ramsay.
ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said,
Fair, timely and effective dispute resolution is a cornerstone of the financial services consumer protection framework. The combination of firms’ internal dispute resolution procedures and access to a free independent external scheme currently provides redress for many tens of thousands of Australians each year. Strengthening these dispute resolution requirements will help deliver higher standards and better outcomes in the financial services market.
The establishment of a single scheme for all financial services and superannuation complaints is a very positive development, building on the outcomes achieved over many years by the existing three schemes: the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.
Higher monetary limits and compensation caps, including for primary production businesses, will give more consumers and small businesses access to a free and independent forum to resolve their complaints.
ASIC said that it will work with Government and scheme stakeholders to ensure that the transition to the commencement of AFCA is as smooth as possible. In the interim, ASIC will retain direct oversight of the two ASIC-approved schemes – FOS and CIO – which will continue to provide high levels of service to consumers and firms. Separate arrangements are in place for the ongoing operation of the SCT to enable it to deal with existing complaints.
ASIC noted some important information about the transition to AFCA:
- AFCA will start accepting complaints no later than 1 November 2018.
- The operator of the scheme will be authorised by the Minister, and the scheme will be subject to ongoing oversight by ASIC.
- In order to maintain access to external dispute resolution for consumers in the lead up to commencement of AFCA, ASIC will monitor member compliance with existing EDR scheme requirements as well as the effectiveness of scheme operations.
- Members of each of CIO and FOS – including licensees and credit representatives – must continue to maintain their EDR membership through this period, including paying membership and other scheme fees in full as required. ASIC has asked the two schemes to report any failure of members to do so.
- A memorandum of understanding between CIO and FOS will prevent members inappropriately moving between the schemes in the transition period.
- ASIC will be consulting soon on updated Regulatory Guide 139 (REG 139), which will set out details of ASIC’s oversight of AFCA. This will be finalised and published when AFCA commences operations.
- ASIC will also publicly consult on new IDR standards and the mandatory IDR reporting requirements that are also contained in the AFCA Bill – but this consultation will not take place until after AFCA commencement.
- Current legislative IDR requirements for superannuation trustees and retirement savings account providers (including 90-day timeframes and requirements for written reasons) will continue to apply in their current form until ASIC consults on and then issues updated IDR policy (RG 165).