2020–21 Annual Review

Feedback about our service

AFCA takes all feedback about service seriously. While we are certainly proud of the work we have achieved so far, we also acknowledge that there are opportunities to improve and enhance our service.

AFCA welcomes feedback via our online feedback form, email, phone or on social media. We use the information and insights that we receive from feedback and complaints as part of our quality program and continuous improvement work.

In 2020–21, we received 227 compliments about our service through our formal complaints and feedback channel.

Positive feedback included compliments about our overall service, helpfulness, responding quickly and flexibly to issues experienced by complaint parties, and for outcomes of determinations and resolutions we provided.

We received 984 complaints about our service in 2020–21. This is a 4% decrease on the previous year and represented 1.4% of all financial firm complaints that we received in 2020–21.

We resolved 1,060 service complaints in 2020–21, which was a 16% increase on the previous year.

Of the service complaints finalised, 85% of service issues raised were not upheld or substantiated, which was consistent with the previous year.

In 2020–21, we received 67 expressions of dissatisfaction – feedback that does not require a response. These often come to us via our website, or to a staff member in an email or phone call.

During 2020–21, 201 service complaints were escalated and lodged with the Independent Assessor, representing 20% of the total service complaints received.

Service issues

Issues raised in complaints about our service can relate to our communication; timeframes and process; concerns about how a complaint was finalised, including at determination; or other issues relating to the level of service we provided to consumers, small businesses and AFCA members.

Service issues can also relate to membership services, including fees charged.

In 2020–21, the three most common issues raised in service complaints lodged were alleged bias in our process, delays, and failure to take into account relevant information in a determination we issued.

Of the service complaint issues that were upheld in 2020–21, most (80%) related to delays, how we kept parties informed of their complaint progress or incorrect/insufficient information being provided.

Thirty-one issues about determinations we issued were upheld in 2020–21, representing 1.5% of all service complaint issues dealt with.

No complaints alleging bias in a determination were substantiated in 2020–21.

Outcomes and timeframes

The most common outcomes for service complaints upheld this year were apologies. In a small number of instances, complaints were also prioritised as an outcome. Non-financial loss compensation for a number of substantiated issues, including delays, was also offered and provided.

For the small number of determination issues that were upheld, an apology and/or errors being corrected were the most common outcomes provided.

We resolved 48% of service complaints within our timeframes, which was a slight reduction from the previous year, and reflected the closure of a number of older service complaints in 2020–21. We saw strong improvements in our open service complaint timeframes – but with the average age of open service complaints decreasing from 58 days, at the beginning of July 2020, to 32 days at the end of June 2021.

On average, we resolved a service complaint within 57 days.

1,950 service issues

Feedback about our service chart
AFCA service complaint issue Total
Service (general service issues) 1,306
Determination 584
Membership/finance 60


Note: some service complaints have more than one issue, so this total is greater than the number of service complaints received.

Areas of focus and further improvements

Our service complaints team continued to work closely with our quality and customer experience teams, and across AFCA, to share insights and issues that arose from complaints about our service this year. We also worked in conjunction with the Independent Assessor to discuss and progress key issues that the Independent Assessor identified in service complaints investigated by her office.

In 2021–22, we will be continuing to work with AFCA case management and decision teams to assist them in addressing and responding to service complaints, and to tackle any recurring issues that are arising.

Providing more flexibility in our service and complaint handling and improving our complaint handling efficiencies and timeframes are important areas of priority.

Case study

A complaint was lodged about a financial firm not meeting its financial hardship obligations when the complainant had trouble making loan repayments due to personal illness and the effects of COVID-19 on their business.

AFCA investigated the matter and found in favour of the complainant.

AFCA determined that the financial firm had failed to adequately consider the complainant’s financial hardship, and it had inappropriately contacted family members about the debt. AFCA’s determination directed the financial firm to further consider a repayment proposal, provide a three-month payment moratorium, and it also awarded an amount of non-financial loss compensation to the complainant.

The complainant subsequently lodged a complaint about AFCA’s service, raising concerns about delays and the number of case managers that handled their complaint.

Outcome and findings

We conducted a thorough review of the complainant’s file and found that there had been delays and several case workers involved in dealing with the complaint. We apologised to the complainant and explained why their complaint had been dealt with by several case workers.

Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.

Case study

AFCA dealt with a complaint against a financial firm, in which a complainant raised concerns that monthly life insurance premiums were being incorrectly debited from their superannuation account. The complainant believed the monthly life insurance premium amount was varying significantly and they were concerned that this was an error.

AFCA’s determination upheld the superannuation trustee’s position that premiums were being deducted fairly and in accordance with the relevant policy terms.

The complainant lodged a service complaint because they were concerned that AFCA had acted with bias by allowing the financial firm additional time to provide its response, there were delays in the progress of his complaint and his AFCA case manager had changed several times.

Outcome and findings

AFCA investigated the complainant’s concerns and provided an explanation of the process that had been followed, why the complaint had been reallocated to different case workers, and why it had taken longer than usual to progress to a decision. We also apologised for the delay in responding to his service complaint.

The complainant was not satisfied with our response to their complaint, and subsequently pursued a service complaint with the Independent Assessor. After completing her investigation, the Independent Assessor also found that AFCA had delayed in allocating the case to a decision maker and in responding to their service complaint. The complainant was awarded a small amount of non-financial loss compensation, which they accepted.

Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.

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Case study

The complainant lodged a service complaint about the determination we issued, in which they raised a concern that the AFCA decision maker had not considered the information the complainant had provided.

The original complaint was against a financial firm relating to a motor vehicle insurance claim, with the complainant being an uninsured third-party driver. The complainant believed he was not at fault for the accident because the other driver was speeding.

AFCA found in the financial firm’s favour, on the basis that the complainant could not establish that they were not at fault for the accident.

Outcome and findings

AFCA investigated their concerns that information had not been properly considered. Our investigation included a complete review of the file by the service case manager and review of the matter by the Lead Ombudsman. The matter was also discussed with the decision maker who had issued the determination.

Following our investigation, we found that the information had, in fact, been considered by the decision maker and was also referenced in the determination. AFCA provided a response to the complainant explaining that although we understood they disagreed with the determination outcome, the decision maker had considered all information provided by the parties including the complainant’s information and the determination represented AFCA’s final decision in relation to their complaint.

Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.

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