Shail Singh, David Locke

Advice complaints to the independent Authority halved from 1238 to 610 in the year to June 30, 2022 or 0.8 per cent of all AFCA complaints to banks, insurers, advisers and superannuation funds.

Investments and advice acting lead ombudsman Shail Singh tells Professional Planner advice complaints were “continuing downward” with complainants receiving $18 million as a result.

Determinations in favour of complainants and financial firms were split 50:50 and more than one third of complaints were resolved by agreement, AFCA data showed.

“The advice industry is doing a great job from our perspective,’’ Singh says.

“The issues that we drew tended to batch disputes – it might be an adviser who absconded with clients’ funds or an SMSF property strategy which failed to adequately consider a client’s circumstances or a conflict of interest.’’

Last year the complaints authority revealed the downward trend of complaints against financial advisers.

Singh says there was no trend of disputes relating to a departure of an adviser as a result of the tougher education requirements on the industry in response to the 2017 Royal Commission but this may be due to a delay in when complaints are made, often two to three years after the event.

“We have up to six years to receive disputes,’’ Singh says.

Meanwhile AFCA received 72,358 complaints in the 2022 financial year, bringing the total number of complaints dealt with by AFCA to more than 270,000 since it opened its doors on
November 1, 2018, AFCA chief executive officer David Locke told members in his forum address this week.

The most complained about products were credit cards, personal transactions, home loans, home building insurance and motor vehicle insurance.

Locke said the Authority had a significant program of work underway to address nine of 14 recommendations from an independent review by Treasury which released its findings on November 25 last year.

“The report was a very positive report card for AFCA, confirming that we are, ‘performing well in a difficult operating environment and a changing regulatory landscape’ and reaffirmed AFCA’s impartiality and its fairness jurisdiction, acknowledging that this approach underpins our ‘critical’ role as an efficient alternative to a tribunal or court for consumers, small businesses and financial firms,’’ Locke said.

“It also confirmed that the average time to resolve complaints at AFCA compares favourably with the performance of our UK counterpart and AFCA’s predecessor schemes, FOS, the CIO and SCT. In the last 12 months, the average time to resolve a complaint brought to AFCA was 72 days.”

The Authority has installed a new funding model for complaints closed from July 1 which with a vast majority of financial firms paying the same or less under the new fee structure with its “user pays” approach, he said.

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