The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is reminding firms that on 1 November 2020, the six-month temporary time extension for firms to provide responses to financial difficulty complaints and complaints that have already been through internal dispute resolution will come to an end.

Key points

  • From 1 November 2020, AFCA’s process will revert to the original response timeframes, giving financial firms 21 days to respond to financial difficulty complaints and complaints that have already been through internal dispute resolution.
  • The timeframes will revert and take effect after 11.59pm on 31 October, relevant complaints received after that will be subject to a 21-day response.
  • AFCA will also require initial responses to complaints that have reached the case management stage within the requested timeframe (7, 14 or 21 days as appropriate).
  • You can view AFCA’s detailed process map here showing the response timeframes.

The ceasing of this time extension follows AFCA’s announcement in April that for a six month period, financial firms would have an extra 9 days to respond to complaints that have already been through the firm’s internal dispute resolution process, taking the total time to respond from 21 days to 30 days. This approach recognised the need for a more flexible approach considering difficulties related to COVID-19 and allowed all parties involved in a complaint sufficient time to work together to resolve the complaint ahead of AFCA investigating.

“AFCA has been working closely with key stakeholders since April to monitor and review the response timeframe change, and it is appropriate that the extension ceases as intended at the six-month point,” said Chief Ombudsman and CEO David Locke.

“We are appreciative of the way our members have dealt proactively with the challenges of COVID-19 and the resolution of complaints during this extended response timeframe. I congratulate our members for their high levels of responsiveness during this extended time period, and I am confident this high level of response will continue when the timeframe reverts to 21 days.”

Mr. Locke also confirmed AFCA will continue to be responsive and agile to individual circumstances when required.

“AFCA will, of course, continue to consider further extensions where they’re needed on a case by case situation. This is part of our normal process. We understand that the damaging impacts of COVID-19 continue to be felt by some financial firms, as well as consumers and small businesses, and our approach is flexible and agile to meet these individual needs. I strongly urge those members who need more time, to communicate with us early and regularly so we understand your situation and can respond appropriately.”

AFCA also encourages financial firms to continue to work constructively and reasonably with affected consumers and small businesses during any period of disruption, particularly consumers and small businesses in hardship, or who may be experiencing difficulty repaying debt. This includes openly and transparently communicating with consumers and small businesses about any delays financial firms may experience in decision making, claims or complaints handling caused by the impact of COVID-19 on their business.

About AFCA

  • The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is Australia’s non-government financial industry ombudsman service – providing free, fair and independent help with financial disputes.
  • AFCA is a one-stop-shop for consumers and small businesses who have a dispute with their financial firm, over things such as banking, credit, insurance, advice, investments or superannuation.
  • AFCA encourages consumers to try to resolve their complaint directly with their financial provider first.
  • Where an agreement cannot be reached between parties, AFCA can issue decisions that are binding on financial firms.