For cases in which AFCA actually makes a ruling one way or another, the outcome is fairly evenly split between favouring the complainant over the financial firm, the lead ombudsman for the complaints authority’s investment and advice segment has pointed out.

“We often get questions and suggestions that AFCA might be bias one way or the other in its decision making but these are the facts here,” AFCA’s Natalie Cameron (pictured) said during an online session at the SMSF Association National Conference 2021 on Tuesday.

Five per cent of AFCA’s decisions relating to investments and advice land in favour of the financial firm while 6 per cent land in favour of the client or the complainant, AFCA’s complaint data for the 12-month period to September 2020 shows.

The largest portion of complaints relating to investments and advice (32 per cent) are passed on by AFCA because they land outside the complaints authority’s jurisdiction, the data shows.

The next largest number of complaints (26 per cent or 1,135 complaints) relating to investment and advice are resolved internally by the financial firms’ complaints resolution process, the AFCA data shows. A further 14 per cent of complaints are handled through a mutual negotiation process and 10 per cent or 458 are discontinued.

Investment and advice complaints made up a relatively small proportion (6 per cent) of the 80,640 complaints AFCA received in total during the 12 month period.

The majority of investment and advice-related complaints related either to misleading product information and service, inappropriate advice or failure to act in the client’s best interests, Cameron highlighted.

While small in number, the advice related complaints tend to take longer to resolve, Cameron said, adding that only 20 per cent of complaints relating to investment and advice were able to be resolved as soon as they came in AFCA’s door compared to 51 per cent of banking and finance complaints.

Complaints specifically relating to SMSFs were very small in number in the 12-month period (324 in total), a mere 0.4 per cent of the 80,000 odd complaints AFCA received, Cameron pointed out.

“A lot of people are clearly giving really great advice to SMSFs and the majority are probably really happy,” she said.

Smith is head of content and managing editor of Professional Planner and Investment Magazine.
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