Australians lodged more than 300,000 complaints with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) since the external disputes resolution organisation formed four years ago – an average of around 200 complaints each day.
The financial services industry consumer ombudsman confirmed it had also secured nearly $900 million in compensation and refunds for consumers over the four-year period, resolving around 60 per cent of cases in fewer than 60 days.
AFCA said that it also identified and reported 227 definite systemic issues and serious contraventions of the law to federal regulators, resulting in an additional $280 million in refunds to 6.5 million consumers.
Banks received the lion’s share of consumer complaints, racking up more than 110,000 – representing around one in three of all disputes lodged with AFCA.
The general insurance sector was the second most complained about industry, receiving nearly 62,000 complaints – a little over one in five lodgements.
Insurance sector complaints were largely concerned with delays in claims handling (around 22,000 complaints), followed by disputes around the amount received through claims (around 16,500 complaints), and the denial of insurance claims (around 15,000 complaints).
Credit providers, which came in as the third-most complained about sector, received around 36,000 complaints, representing just over one in 10 disputes lodged with AFCA.
The most complained about products were credit cards, receiving around 41,000 complaints (representing 13.6 per cent of complaints), followed by home loans (8.9 per cent), personal transactions accounts (7.5 per cent) and personal loans (7.4 per cent).
Concerns over service quality (27,300 complaints received) and unauthorised transactions (22,600 complaints) topped the list of official consumer disputes.
AFCA also highlighted its advocacy for consumers during a tumultuous four years of natural disaster events (beginning with the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires to the recent floods), the Covid pandemic (registering, it said, around 17,000 Covid-related complaints), as well as instances of exploitation of Indigenous communities, issuing, it said, 178 decisions and awarding more than $1.4 million in refunds and interest in cases involving Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) companies.
“The past four years have demonstrated the critical role AFCA plays,” said AFCA chief executive officer and chief ombudsman, David Locke.
“As we move into a period of heightened economic uncertainty, and amid increasing natural disasters, the need for AFCA’s services has never been greater.”
AFCA, designed as a “one-stop-shop” for financial disputes and formed out of a merger of three separate non-government consumer dispute resolution services (the former Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal), commenced operations on 1 November 2018.