Regulators step up COVID-19 response

Financial advice regulators have announced that the evolving COVID-19 crisis will be their top priority for the next few months, meaning other projects may need to be set aside.

In a statement released on Monday, ASIC announced that until the end of September, all non-essential work would be set aside to focus on the challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Until at least 30 September 2020, the other matters that ASIC will afford priority are where there is the risk of significant consumer harm, serious breaches of the law, risks to market integrity and time-critical matters,” the regulator said.

ASIC added it had suspended a number of consultation papers, regulatory reports and reviews that were not time critical, including report on executive remuneration, updated internal dispute resolution guidance and a consultation paper on managed discretionary accounts.


However, the regulator confirmed to ifa that consultation timings for its recently released Consultation Paper 329 around annual opt-in requirements and independence disclosures for advisers would be proceeding to the previously agreed timetable, given the proposed 1 July start date of the new rules.

“We are still working to ensure that the instrument can be made by 1 July, however given current circumstances, we understand that industry may have difficulty in the responding to the CP,” an ASIC spokesperson said. 

“If that is the case, we are happy for them to contact us and discuss their comments by phone, or make other arrangements.”

ASIC said that while it would continue to investigate misconduct “where public interest warrants us to do so”, it would focus on action “necessary to prevent immediate consumer harm, egregious illegal conduct and other time critical matters”.

The regulator added it would also work with financial institutions to accelerate the payment of outstanding remediation to customers.

Elsewhere, AFCA said it would modify its approach to dispute resolution as a result of the crisis, taking into account the “unprecedented circumstances” many financial services businesses found themselves in when considering new complaints.

The ombudsman said it had established a support hotline to ensure a priority service for consumers affected by COVID-19, and that these complaints would be “prioritised and fast-tracked” to ensure issues were resolved as quickly as possible.

“AFCA 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, [as well as] openly and transparently communicating with consumers and small businesses about any delays they may experience in decision making, claims or complaints handling caused by the impact of COVID-19 on their business,” the ombudsman said.

Regulators step up COVID-19 response
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