The final report of the triennial independent review of the Australian Banking Association’s (ABA) Banking Code of Practice released today makes over 100 recommendations aimed at improving people’s experiences with their bank.
The Banking Code is an industry code for ABA member banks, which contains a range of commitments to customers. Consumer groups are calling upon the ABA and its member banks to implement key recommendations made by independent reviewer Mike Callaghan AM PSM that would further strengthen the Banking Code.
Mr Callaghan’s report contains 116 recommendations, which are far ranging and indicate that the banks can do more for their customers in virtually all areas of their businesses.
One of the most important recommendations is to mandate existing industry guidelines published by the ABA that set out best practice standards for particular issues. These guidelines cover crucial topics such as promoting financial hardship programs and better ways to prevent and respond to financial abuse, but are currently not binding upon the banks.
“The ABA’s industry guidelines contain important details on how banks should best support their customers in vulnerable situations. The time is now for the banks to commit to meet their own best practice guidance”, said Consumer Action Law Centre CEO, Gerard Brody.
“There are also recommendations aimed at reducing or removing barriers to accessing banking services, which currently exist for some groups of people. We call upon the banks to use this review as an opportunity to do everything they can to improve the banking services available to regional and remote communities, First Nations communities, people with disabilities and culturally and linguistically diverse communities, in particular”, said Mr Brody.
“Amongst the 116 recommendations – there are two that are key to improving banking practice and consumer outcomes across the board. Firstly, that banks have in place the systems to support compliance with the Code; and secondly, ensuring that ABA’s industry “guidelines” are part of the Code and not voluntary”, said Financial Rights Legal Centre CEO, Karen Cox.
“Banks’ compliance with their own code needs improving, and having structures and processes in place to do so will enable banks to meet their promise to customers. And ensuring that banks see industry guidelines as part of the Code rather than aspirational statements would lift standards across the board. These recommendations must be taken up by the ABA,” said Ms Cox.
The ABA is due to respond to the final report in early 2022.