November 01, 2019 20:17:27

The financial complaints watchdog has clawed back $185 million over the past year for consumers ripped off by banks, credit card companies and insurance companies.

Key points

  • The Australian Financial Complaints Authority was established in the leadup to the banking royal commission
  • ACFA’s chief executive says consumers are more educated and willing to take up complaints since the royal commission
  • The regulator is receiving an average 200 complaints per day

Since the height of the banking royal commission in November last year, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has seen consumer gripes surge by 40 per cent to 73,272 investigations.

The regulator is receiving an average 200 complaints per day with 77 per cent of those resolved in 60 days or less.

AFCA chief executive David Locke told The World Today consumers were now more aware of their rights as a result of the royal commission.

“What’s happened is people have realised that if they do have issues of concern that there is some value in complaining,” he said.

“I think sometimes in the past, people have just put up with things or felt as though it is too hard,” Mr Locke said.

“We’ve seen a big increase in complaints about superannuation and we think that’s because a lot of people are looking at their super funds and statements perhaps for the first time in a while.

“I do think that there is still poor conduct out there we are seeing day in and day out with practises which are unacceptable.”

Mr Locke said in addition to banks and insurers, credit card complaints and financial hardship were the biggest issues.

Woolworths underpayment could affect vulnerable workers

While out of AFCA’s jurisdiction, the $300 million worker-underpayment scandal at Woolworths dismayed Mr Locke, who is also the watchdog’s chief ombudsman.

“That is a lot of money and a lot of the people who work in retail jobs, such as at Woolworths, will be women, part-time workers, maybe older Australians or young people,” he said.

“I think that amount of money would make a real difference in people’s pay packets.”

Mr Locke said, depending on the circumstances, criminal in addition to civil sanctions could be considered to companies that rip off employees.

“I firmly believe that there is a role for criminal prosecution where there is wilful, wilful and deliberate misconduct.”

AFCA was established in the leadup to the banking royal commission by then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and then-treasurer Scott Morrison.

Follow Peter Ryan on Twitter @peter_f_ryan





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