AFCA reports soaring complaints amid crisis

The financial services industry ombudsman has revealed it has received thousands of complaints from consumers relating to the COVID-19 crisis, with delays in the early release of super accounting for a significant proportion of disputes.

Speaking in an online members' forum on Tuesday, AFCA chief operating officer Justin Understeiner said the ombudsman had received more than 3,180 complaints around COVID-19, including 1,430 banking and finance complaints and 610 superannuation complaints.

Around 680 complaints in the banking and finance category related to financial difficulty, Mr Understeiner said.

He added that a key category of complaint was around delays in early release of super, while other top categories included loan break costs, disputed transactions and requests to extend payment terms.

Mr Understeiner said a significant proportion of these complaints came down to poor communication from the financial services provider, as customer query numbers soared in the wake of the crisis and firms struggled to keep up.

"Many of these complaints result from poor communication, where a consumer has trouble contacting their firm, does not understand their policy, or is confused about the information they receive,” he said.

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“To support consumers, we encourage financial firms to ensure their contact details and resources are visible and accessible and allow for genuine engagement with customers to resolve issues early on.

"We encourage financial firms to minimise COVID-19 related disputes by communicating with consumers early, speaking in plain English, proactively setting customer expectations around delays, reviewing internal dispute resolution processes and regularly engaging with AFCA."

Mr Understeiner said the ombudsman expected to see a continuing increase in complaints in the following months, particularly until the end of the early release of super scheme in September.

AFCA reports soaring complaints amid crisis
AFCA
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