ACCC invites input from Aussie banks on anti-scam standards

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ACCC has announced it will permit the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and its members, including the big four banks, to join discussions on the creation of a new industry standard for scams.

The ACCC’s “interim authorisation” also applies to all other ABA member banks, including AMP, BoQ, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citigroup, HSBC, ING Bank, Macquarie Bank, and Suncorp Bank.

As a result of the decision, ABA members will be invited to take part in discussions on an emerging industry standard to combat scams, which would cover measures “to prevent, detect, and disrupt scams affecting individual and small business customers”.

ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said the regulator had “acted quickly” in granting the interim authorisation “because the proliferation of scams is causing significant detriment to consumers and businesses alike, and the banking sector has a key role in combating scams and recovering losses.”

The ABA’s application for authorisation was lodged with the ACCC on 10 July.

Development of this bank industry-specific standard would, according to the ABA, “form the building blocks of a legislated cross-industry code”. It follows the Federal Government’s announcement it would legislate such a code, which would cover, among other industries, banks, telcos, online platforms.

As a condition of being invited into the discussion, Lowe confirmed the “ABA will be required to provide regular reports on any industry initiatives they propose such as circumstances where customers would be reimbursed or entitled to remedies.”

“We have placed reporting conditions on the ABA to ensure we are informed of the progress of their discussions, including consultation with stakeholders, and to aid us in determining our final decision on the application,” Lowe said.

A 12-month authorisation was requested by the peak banking body. The request was for development of the anti-scam initiatives and draft standards only; a further authorisation request will be made for the implementation of the standard.

The ABA noted in its application that “the potential for any anti-competitive effect” would be “negligible”, it said, given “the limited scope of the conduct”.

The constituent banks note they have a vested interest in the formation of the standards, with more than 31,700 customers of the big four banks collectively losing more than $558 million to scams in the 2021-22 financial year.