AFCA to fast-track COVID-19 related complaints
AFCA said it has activated its significant event response plan that identifies and fast-tracks COVID-19 related complaints, and has set up a hotline to ensure priority service for those impacted.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has modified its approach to dispute resolution to take into account all regulatory and legislative changes announced as part of Australia’s COVID-19 response.
It confirmed that complaints about COVID-19 will be prioritised and fast-tracked to ensure those impacted have their issues resolved as quickly as possible.
AFCA CEO and chief ombudsman David Locke said the authority will support government and banking sector initiatives that assist small businesses and consumers to withstand the unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19.
“AFCA recognises that strong and effective action is required to deal with these challenges,” Mr Locke said.
“We will take into account the unprecedented circumstances that financial firms are currently operating in when considering any complaints that may arise, as well as any revised regulatory standards or guidance that may apply.
“We also recognise the pressures on small business owners and consumers at this very difficult time.”
Furthermore, AFCA has established a support hotline (1800 337 444), to ensure a priority service is provided for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has also set up an online COVID-19 information hub that is regularly updated with information for consumers and small businesses (afca.org.au/covid-19).
AFCA noted that it will take into account the circumstances and context in which lenders and other financial firms are currently operating when considering complaints, including alternative staffing arrangements, which may slow responses.
“AFCA will work with industry peak bodies and consumer groups, as well as directly with AFCA members to ensure we understand the challenges the financial services industry and consumers is facing,” it said, adding that it supports the changes to responsible lending obligations.