Thank you for the opportunity to respond to the proposed amendments to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority’s (AFCA) complaint resolution scheme rules (Rules) and Operational Guidelines (Guide).
Ensuring AFCA continues to be a fair and accessible dispute resolution body for consumers is of vital importance for consumers. Consumer Action Law Centre (Consumer Action) sees the impact of AFCA’s role in both the matters where we represent clients pro-bono in AFCA disputes, as well as through the many more matters where we provide ad-hoc advice to complainants, or financial counsellors assisting their own clients.
We are surprised that the most significant proposed changes to the Rules since its establishment are to primarily expand the circumstances where AFCA can exclude complaints. We have specific concerns about Proposal 2 and 3. We hope AFCA has given significant consideration to also identifying areas of the Rules and Guide that may be negatively impacting complainants’ access to justice.
We recognise that the amendments have been prompted by the recommendations from the Government’s Independent Review of AFCA (Independent Review). However, the link between those recommendations and some of these proposals seems tenuous. As we pointed out at the ACAP consultation earlier in May, the amendments capture behaviour of a far lower standard than the egregious examples cited in justifying the proposed exclusions. While we were assured the exclusions would only apply to the few worst examples, as the proposed amendments currently read, there is real possibility for their unfair application to exclude the most vulnerable in our community and deny access to justice or compensation.
We make some recommendations in our submission to help address possible risks or grey areas we have identified. We also make recommendations about issues we would like to see addressed that are separate to the proposals, but we consider to be related to the recommendations of the Independent Review.230523_AFCA rules op guide sub final