AFCA to cease COVID relief

The financial services ombudsman has sought to remind financial firms that they will no longer have extra time to respond to consumer complaints as of next month.

In a statement, AFCA said its temporary time extension for certain complaint categories, put in place during the COVID crisis, would come to an end on 1 November.

“From 1 November 2020, AFCA’s process will revert to the original response time frames, giving financial firms 21 days to respond to financial difficulty complaints and complaints that have already been through internal dispute resolution,” the ombudsman said.

“The time frames will revert and take effect after 11:59pm on 31 October, [and] relevant complaints received after that will be subject to a 21-day response.”

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The news follows AFCA’s announcement in April that it had agreed an extended time frame with ASIC for firms to deal with complaints, in recognition of the “unprecedented levels of customer queries” being received by some firms, AFCA chief executive David Locke said at the time.

Mr Locke said that based on the ombudsman’s work with key stakeholders in the industry, it had come to the conclusion that November was an appropriate time to cease the extension.

“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 time frame,” Mr Locke said.

“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 time frame reverts to 21 days.”

Mr Locke said AFCA would consider further extensions for firms on a “case by case situation”.

“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,” he said.

“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 to cease COVID relief
David Locke
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