AFCA deputy chief ombudsman June Smith

AFCA will create a uniform framework for consultation when developing its guidelines for how it approaches complaints, and provide clarity of the authority’s role in response to recommendations made by its Fairness Jurisdiction project.

The project will also aide in its response to recommendation two of Treasury’s review into AFCA conducted last year which proposed AFCA ensure all decisions consider “what is fair in all circumstances”.

The aim of the project, which commenced in 2019, is to ensure the authority provides dispute resolution services in a fair, independent and consistent way. It aims to have the recommendations from the report in place by 2023.

The project is unique to AFCA and separates itself from its predecessors like the Financial Ombudsman Service.

AFCA deputy chief ombudsman June Smith said the project didn’t set out to define “what is fair or unfair” in the provision of financial services, or create new standards of conduct for financial services firms.

“AFCA’s role is to apply the law, codes of practice and regulatory guidance in place at the time the conduct complained about occurred,” she stated in the report.

Where there’s merit

It’s been a busy week for AFCA, which also made early merit assessment a permanent feature of its process after a pilot program showed it made complaints handling “faster, cheaper and fairer” for all parties.

Merit assessment identifies cases early in the dispute resolution process where this is clearly no error or financial loss which helps reduce the overall case load.

The process was tested in a three-month pilot last year which found the time taken to resolve the selected cases was half that of comparable cases and the fee charged was as much as 75 per cent lower.