AFCA launches ‘milestone’ dispute resolution platform

AFCA Complaints

Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has unveiled a new near-real-time data-enabled digital platform to support financial firms in managing disputes that are referred to the independent ombudsman.

Dubbed AFCA Member Benchmarking Dashboard, the interactive platform will give financial firms access to “near real-time complaints data”, which AFCA notes will be “updated daily”.

The dashboard will be released to AFCA members in phases through November and December.

AFCA chief executive and chief ombudsman David Locke said the platform will enable its members to “investigate the types of complaints they receive, how well they respond to disputes, and how their performance compares to other firms in their industry”.

Firms will be able to compare their performance against an anonymised set of similar financial firms.

“By providing members with greater data and insights, we hope to help financial firms improve customer service and minimise disputes,” Locke added.

He noted that while the core remit of the non-government ombudsman was to “resolve complaints” levelled against financial businesses, it also has a preventative role to “encourage best practice, so firms receive fewer complaints in the first place”.

The new tool will be made available to AFCA members only. However, the ombudsman noted it also provides a “free and public” AFCA Datacube, updated twice a year, that gives broader insights into complaints gathered through the year.

AFCA received more than 67,600 complaints between its July 2020 to June 2021 reporting period (most recently updated to 70,510 in October), dropping by 12 per cent on the previous year. Complaints against the big four banks also fell seven per cent.

Banks (with 26,068 complaints) and general insurers (13,808) still make up the bulk of consumer complaints against Australia’s financial services industry, together representing 58 per cent of complaints referred to AFCA.

More than half (56 per cent) of all complaints registered by AFCA were resolved in under two months. By six months, 90 per cent of all complaints were resolved.