AFCA raises concern on skyrocketing complaints by First Nations peoples

Industry called to be more proactive about identifying customers in hardship

AFCA raises concern on skyrocketing complaints by First Nations peoples

Insurance News

By Roxanne Libatique

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has raised concerns on skyrocketing complaints by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples.

In the 2022-23 financial year, AFCA received 2,523 complaints from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, up 13% from the previous year.

Overall, Australia's financial dispute resolution scheme received almost 97,000 complaints in insurance and superannuation, banking and finance, and investments and advice in 2022-23, a record number of complaints and a concerning 34% rise from the previous year. Among the complaints, around 3% were submitted by people who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Products most complained about by First Nations people

The top three products most complained about by First Nations peoples were:

  • personal transaction accounts
  • personal loans
  • credit cards

The most common issues were:

  • delays in insurance claims handling
  • unauthorised transactions
  • service quality

AFCA further found that more than one in 10 complaints submitted by First Nations peoples were related to financial hardship (compared to one in 20 involving hardship for AFCA complaints overall).

“The fact that there are more than double the proportion of complaints about hardship among First Nations peoples is of great concern to AFCA, and we call on financial firms to do more to address this,” said AFCA Deputy Chief Ombudsman Dr June Smith.

Calls for helping First Nations people

AFCA called on the Australian financial services industry to become more proactive about identifying First Nations customers in hardship and helping them alleviate their financial problems.

“First Nations peoples should be served by organisations that are culturally aware and engaged in culturally sensitive practice,” Smith said.

Regarding financial hardship, AFCA prioritises vulnerable complainants and provides additional assistance to make the complaint process less stressful.

“We encourage people to indicate when lodging a complaint that they may need flexibility with the AFCA process – such as longer deadlines – if they are experiencing difficult circumstances,” Smith said. “People can appoint a representative – whether that's a friend or family member or a financial counsellor – to walk alongside them during the process.”

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