The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has revamped its approach to dispute resolution to support government and banking-sector initiatives that assist small businesses and consumers in dealing with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“AFCA recognises that strong and effective action is required to deal with these challenges,” said David Locke, AFCA CEO. “We will take into account the unprecedented circumstances that financial firms are currently operating in when considering any complaints that may arise, as well as any revised regulatory standards or guidance that may apply. We also recognise the pressures on small business owners and consumers at this very difficult time.”
The EDR body recently activated its significant event response plan to provide for early communication with relevant stakeholders and a more streamlined, expedited process for the resolution of COVID-19-related complaints. It also activated its business continuity plan, which ensures that it will be able to continue to operate under changing conditions.
AFCA said it will prioritise and fast-track COVID-19-related complaints, while taking into account the circumstances and context in which lenders and other financial firms are currently operating, as there may be firms that are not in a position to quickly act on requests for information during this crisis.
To further support those who were impacted by the catastrophic pandemic, support hotline 1800 337 444 has been set up to ensure priority service, and an online COVID-19 information hub has also been established to offer regular updates.
With its staff transitioning to work from home this week, AFCA said its main phone number and new hotline will remain operational, and complaints can still be lodged online via afca.org.au or via email.
All meetings involving external guests will be conducted via video- or telephone-conferencing. AFCA has also delayed member forums and group liaison meetings, to be replaced by webinars, with details to come later. The upcoming legs of the AFCA roadshow will be rescheduled when safe to do so.