Do you need help resolving a problem with a bank, credit provider or superannuation fund? In a timely move following the royal commission into the banking, superannuation and financial services industries, the government has recently established the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

AFCA provides a free and easy-to-access service for consumers and small businesses to make a financial services complaint about credit, finance and loans; insurance; banking deposits and payments; investments and financial advice; and superannuation.

Designed to be a “one stop shop”, AFCA replaces three other bodies that previously handled these complaints (the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal).

AFCA encourages consumers and small businesses with a complaint to try contacting the other party first. If that does not resolve the problem, you can lodge a complaint to AFCA online using their step-by-step process. There are no fees for lodging a complaint and there is no limit on the size of superannuation complaints that AFCA can hear (but most other types of complaints are limited to $1 million in value).

Most complaints must be lodged within six years of becoming aware that you have suffered a loss. However, from 1 July 2019 there will be a 12-month period in which you can lodge a complaint dating back to 1 January 2008.

The scheme covers entities such as banks, insurers, credit providers, superannuation funds (but not SMSFs – more below) and anyone licensed to provide financial advice.

After receiving a complaint, AFCA will usually try to help the parties resolve the dispute informally through negotiation. If this does not work, AFCA may ultimately make a determination that will be binding on the other party, provided that you, the complainant, accept the determination.

SMSFs are unique because the members who hold benefits in the fund are also the trustees (or directors of its trustee company). SMSF trustees are eligible to complain to AFCA about financial services problems they encounter, but AFCA cannot hear a complaint about the decision or conduct of an SMSF trustee.

Handling a problem with a bank, credit provider or superannuation fund can be stressful. Contact our office if you need help resolving a current matter or have an outstanding complaint dating back to 2008 that could be referred to AFCA. We can assist you with preparing a claim and ensuring a fair and fast resolution.

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