- About this Annual Review
- Year at a glance
- Acknowledgement of country
- Board Chair message
- Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman message
- Organisational overview
- AFCA Independent Review
- Who complained to AFCA?
- Overview of complaints
- Open cases
- Closed cases
- Banking and finance complaints
- Buy now pay later
- Scam complaints
- Financial difficulty complaints
- Small business complaints
- General insurance complaints
- Significant events
- Life insurance complaints
- Superannuation complaints
- Investments and advice complaints
- Complaints lodged by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
- Complaints lodged by consumer advocates and financial counsellors
- Complaints lodged by paid representatives
- Complaints outside AFCA’s Rules
- AFCA’s Systemic Issues function
- AFCA’s Code compliance and monitoring functiong
- Engagement, awareness and accessibility
- Corporate information
- AFCA General Purpose Financial Report
For AFCA to deliver on its service and commitments, we cannot operate in isolation. We need strong and meaningful relationships with our external stakeholders, from consumer and industry bodies through to regulators and government, so that we can inform change and influence better dispute resolution and industry practices.
Our principles of engagement are directly linked to our organisational values. In all our stakeholder engagement activities we commit to the following:
- Engagement is purposeful and targeted.
- We clearly identify the people and organisations we want to engage with.
- We engage proactively and not only when we need support.
- We manage how we are perceived in the broader external environment.
Who we engage with
AFCA has a broad range of external stakeholders. They range from those who use our service to those who are interested in AFCA’s broader role in informing reform and improving industry practice.
We work in a proactive manner with financial firms, industry and government to share insights and information that can help raise standards in the industry and improve practices.
AFCA also regularly engages with consumer advocates, including financial counsellors, community lawyers and financial capability workers.
Our stakeholders are important to us and give valuable feedback and insights, so that we can provide the best possible service. We follow a broad engagement program that includes forums, liaison groups, one-on-one meetings, events, consultations, webinars, newsletters and social media.
Engagement with members
In order to improve our service, industry practices and to minimise disputes, we work closely with our members – not only their complaint handling units, but also at the senior leadership level with Boards and executives.
This year, we continued to meet regularly with the Boards of major institutions, such as the major banks and insurers, to share insights about what we are seeing as an ombudsman service and to discuss, generally, major issues including scams, delays and rising complaint volumes.
We also invited our members to engage with us through consultations, webinars and forums this year. AFCA would like to thank its members for their engagement and cooperation in 2022–23, and the positive contribution they made to improving our service and responding to recommendations of the Independent Review.
In the coming year, AFCA will develop a program of work for upcoming consultations and projects. We will share this with our stakeholders so they know when we may call on them to contribute.
For members who interact with us every day, AFCA has a dedicated membership team that assists firms with the management of their membership including applications, online assessments, annual forecasting and everyday membership enquires.
In 2022–23, AFCA held two Member Forums. They were held in August 2022 and March 2023. The forums included dedicated sessions on banking and finance, superannuation, life insurance, general insurance, and investments and advice.
While the Member Forums were traditionally in-person events during the pandemic, in 2020, we moved to a virtual environment and livestreamed the events to our members online.
The virtual events were well received and garnered greater engagement and participation from our members. As a result, we have continued to hold our Member Forums online.
We regularly publish news about AFCA, EDR and the financial services industry on our member portal. Each month a newsletter digest of the latest news is sent to more than 35,000 subscribers.
Engaging with consumers and consumer advocates
The Community Engagement team provides a solid platform for AFCA to listen to a diverse range of voices, ensuring we are meeting community expectations, and promoting accessibility and trust.
The team delivers AFCA’s outreach program and consumer engagement activities, including supporting our internal and external networks of trusted advisers who proactively inform us of issues, provide insights and contribute to our continuous service improvement.
AFCA Consumer Advisory Panel
The 11 members of AFCA’s Consumer Advisory Panel (ACAP) meet quarterly with our Senior Leadership Group. The panel provides insight and analysis on AFCA strategy and policy, consumer-related projects and shares real-time information about the financial problems Australians are facing.
Panel members represent the communities we serve including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culturally and linguistically diverse communities and people experiencing financial difficulty.
In 2022–23, discussions focused on the consumer impacts of the collapse of the Youpla Group, proposed regulatory changes, scams, de-banking and delays in insurance claim handling. ACAP members also contributed to consultations throughout this period, covering AFCA Rules changes, approaches to responsible lending, uninsured motorist complaints, motor vehicle total loss complaints, non-financial loss and general insurance complaints about flood claim decisions.
Consumer Advocate Liaison Meetings
We welcomed new members to our Consumer Advocate Liaison Meetings (CALM) in 2022–23. Representatives from nearly 30 advocacy, financial counselling and community legal services meet quarterly with our senior management team. CALM focuses on good practice in EDR, removing barriers for vulnerable people to our service and exploring specific areas of AFCA’s jurisdiction, including fairness, systemic issues and scams. Participants also shared their experience and insights on managing challenging behaviours and working with victim-survivors of domestic violence.
We are extremely grateful for the contributions of everyone involved in ACAP and CALM for their time, wisdom and dedication.
A focus on financial abuse
To raise awareness of AFCA among family and domestic violence advocacy services, with a focus on how we can help resolve complaints involving financial abuse, the Community Engagement team launched a direct email campaign in May 2022. The campaign reached over 500 advocacy services working with victim-survivors of domestic violence. The campaign also directed recipients to a tailored landing page at afca.org.au that included resources, case studies and an invitation to register for an introductory webinar.
Representatives from over 70 organisations from across Australia attended the webinar, increasing their awareness of how AFCA resolves complaints involving domestic violence and financial abuse. Feedback was very positive:
“Excellent. Thank you very much. As a result of the webinar I will be a better case manager and able to equip clients experiencing domestic violence with better choices.”
This important work ensures advocacy services for victim-survivors of family and domestic violence know about AFCA’s role and our ability to resolve complaints in a flexible, accessible and sensitive way.
AFCA significantly expanded its community outreach program in 2022–23, including creating opportunities to partner with our fellow industry ombudsman schemes to build trust in EDR across the country.
Face-to-face interaction remains the most trusted form of engagement and our outreach activities significantly contribute towards better awareness of AFCA among the communities we serve.
In 2022–23, we prioritised attending festivals and events to listen, engage and celebrate the resilience and strength of First Nations peoples. AFCA also attended almost 50 events reaching the LGBTQIA+ community, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people living with disability (and their carers), and older Australians.
Some of the events our Community Engagement team attended this year included:
- senior expos in Katherine, Darwin and Alice Springs
- disability expos in Hunter Valley, Gold Coast, Perth, Melbourne and Canberra
- Mardi Gras Fair Day in Sydney and the Midsumma Carnival in Melbourne
- events connecting people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness with local services in regional NSW.
We use social media to engage with consumers about the work we do, the types of complaints we consider and how to lodge a complaint if they have a dispute with their financial firm. We also use social media to communicate with members and other financial industry stakeholders.
As at 30 June 2022, we had 2,685 Twitter (now known as X) followers, 3,703 Facebook page followers and 17,607 LinkedIn followers.
The AFCA website contains information about AFCA and our service, including the types of complaints we consider, updates and the steps to lodge a complaint.
From 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, the AFCA website had 859,303 unique visitors (up 12% from 2021–22), and 3,710,853 total page views (up 14% from 2021–22).
Engagement with the Government
AFCA regularly engages with the Australian Government to discuss a range of topics and issues. We share our complaints data and insights with Ministers and departments to highlight some of the challenges both consumers and financial firms face. As well as our regular meetings with Treasury, this year AFCA also met with the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics and appeared at a Senate Estimates Committee. We briefed individual Ministers on the financial complaints impacting their communities, with a particular focus on sharing natural disaster and significant event-related complaints data.
Learning from other ombudsman schemes and financial services industry members across the globe helps us to build and benchmark a robust and resilient dispute resolution environment here in Australia. International engagement also provides an opportunity to share our experiences, learnings and achievements with overseas jurisdictions.
AFCA is a member of the International Network of Financial Services Ombudsman Schemes, and its Lead Ombudsmen are members of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association.
Some of the highlights of our international engagement in 2022–23 includes:
- Dr June Smith is a member of the Executive Committee of ANZOA.
- The Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association’s (ANZOA) ‘Meeting of the Minds’ conference, which AFCA hosted at its Melbourne office on 28–29 July 2023.
- David Locke, our CEO, visited India in October 2022 to speak at the Reserve Bank of India Ombudsman Conference in Jodhpur about AFCA’s experience merging three predecessor schemes.
- We spoke to a number of international ombudsman schemes about scams this year, to understand what these organisations were seeing and the regulatory environment in their respective countries. We have had consistent dialogue with the Financial Ombudsman UK and the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre in Singapore, among others.
- We met and spoke with other ombudsman schemes overseas to learn about their IT transformations – taking learnings for our own. This included the Financial Ombudsman Service UK, the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre in Singapore, the Office of the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance in South Africa, the Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman, and the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments in Canada.
- We met with the Central Bank of Uzbekistan to share insights on how AFCA was formed and how it operates. The Central Bank of Uzbekistan is considering the establishment of a financial ombudsman scheme and is meeting with several ombudsman schemes, including AFCA.
- Dr June Smith conducted training sessions for the Banking Finance and Insurance Institute of Nepal on Australia’s regulatory and consumer protection frameworks.
Consultations we conducted
AFCA publicly consults with stakeholders from time to time. Our public consultations are designed for everyone so we can receive feedback and submissions from a range of stakeholders.
Approach document consultation
AFCA consulted, published and updated some of its approach documents this year. The purpose of AFCA’s approach documents is to explain how we look at common issues and complaint types, give guidance on what to expect from AFCA processes and how we investigate, assess and determine complaints.
Most notably, we consulted on our ‘Approach to Claims for Non-Financial Loss’ and published our ‘Approach to Motor Vehicle Total Loss Complaints’.
In FY22–23, we also commenced work on two new banking and finance approach documents – AFCA’s Approach to Responsible Lending and Approach to Appropriate Lending. We commenced consultation on these two new approach documents in July 2023.
Consultation on proposed changes to AFCA’s Rules and Operational Guidelines
AFCA consulted on proposed changes to its Rules and Operational Guidelines from 27 March to 22 May 2023.
The proposed changes were developed to address recommendations made in the Independent Review, with some additional changes to help ensure our Rules and Operational Guidelines remain accurate, up to date and provide clearer guidance about AFCA’s jurisdiction and processes.
The consultation ran for eight weeks and included 31 individual meetings with external stakeholders, two webinars with more than 1,100 attendees, and a new webpage that was viewed more than 2,200 times.
This was one of the largest external consultations ever conducted by AFCA, receiving a total of 37 formal written submissions.
Following approvals from the AFCA Board and ASIC, the proposed new Rules and Operational Guidelines will commence on 1 July 2024.
Consultations and submissions we took part in
In making submissions about reforms to financial services law, regulation and policy, we aim to:
- improve how financial services complaints are resolved
- address systemic and other issues raised in complaints
- reduce complaints
- inform decision makers about the impact of the law and regulations that apply to certain consumer complaints.
Our regular involvement in inquiries, reviews and other consultations includes:
- providing submissions and other information
- engaging with stakeholders
- appearing at parliamentary and senate hearings
- engaging the regulators we report to about trends and patterns in complaints and systemic issues.
We share our data and other insights with regulators and peak bodies to improve practices.
In 2022–23, AFCA consulted on:
- legislation and arrangements to establish a Compensation Scheme of Last Resort for victims of financial misconduct
- Treasury’s options paper – Regulating Buy Now, Pay Later in Australia, released November 2022
- the independent review of the Buy Now Pay Later Code of Practice
- the development and expansion of the Consumer Data Right regime
- reform proposals in the Quality of Advice Review
- the National Stigma and Discrimination Reduction Strategy developed by the National Mental Health Commission
- the final report of the review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) by the Attorney-General’s Department
- the implementation of recommendations from independent reviews of the Banking Code of Practice and Banking Code Compliance Committee
- the General Insurance Code Governance Committee priorities
- the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Simplification of Financial Services Legislation
- the Inquiry into ASIC Investigation and Enforcement by the Senate Standing Committee on Economics
- legislation restoring consumer access to external dispute resolution after the Federal Court decision in Metlife (MetLife Insurance Limited v Australian Financial Complaints Authority Limited  FCAFC 173)
- updates to the Online Small Business Lenders Code of Practice
- the OECD Consumer Finance Risk Monitor 2023 (and also compiled information)
- proposed changes to the regulation of credit reporting.