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  • 'Incredibly sad cases': Thousands of finance firm complaints tipped
  • By Emma Koehn
  • 25/06/2019 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: Sam ( 1 article in 2019 )
Small businesses and consumers will have a brief window to apply to have some of their most complex financial services complaints cases heard, with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) gearing up to receive "legacy" complaints from July 1.

Last week the Australian Securities and Investments Commission signed off on AFCA's power to investigate complaints about financial firms dating back to 2008, allowing those with un-aired grievances a chance to be heard.

Small businesses and consumers with banking complaints back to 2008 will be able to apply have their cases heard from next week.

AFCA is anticipating a flood of these complaints to be lodged from July 1, though the authority admits neither it nor financial institutions have been able to predict exactly how many people will come forward.

"We are anticipating many thousand applications, but we don’t know if it’s going to be a few thousand or a larger number," AFCA's lead ombudsman for small business, Geoff Browne said.

Complainants will have until June 30, 2020 to lodge their details. In the first instance, AFCA will send the complaints back to the financial firms to see whether they can be resolved before a hearing. Most of the complaints will be between five and 10-years-old, making the resolution process challenging.

Typically, the authority can only hear cases up to six years old or complaints within two years or a bank or financial firm making a call on the dispute through internal dispute resolution measures.

"These are quite complex cases. The longer ago it was, the more letters, the more paperwork, often the ramifications of what happened have had more time to pan out. They can be incredibly sad cases — people have lost homes, business, marriages, health," Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell said.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell.

Mr Browne said there would be tough cases on the cards because there's a strong chance banks and their customers won't have kept full records of the cases under review.

"Complainants may only have certain pieces of evidence. We're aware of that problem and the uncertainty. We'll ask all parties what they've got," he said.

There may be some cases where AFCA will be unable to adjudicate because there may not be enough documentation on file to make a judgment either way.

All older complaints will have the same compensation caps as recent ones. Consumers will be eligible for up to $500,000 in compensation, while disputes about small business credit facilities will have a $1 million compensation cap.

Those considering lodging a complaint are encouraged to gather as much information about their dispute as possible, even if they no longer have all documentation.


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