Millions of Australians will benefit from a new one-stop shop dispute resolution body with legislation to establish the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) passing the Senate yesterday.
The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP, said the passage of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Putting Consumers First – Establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority) Bill will give significantly more consumers and small businesses access to free, fast and binding dispute resolution.
Sadly, Labor and the Greens sought to defeat these important reforms by moving amendments to exclude superannuation disputes from AFCA’s remit. Fortunately, with the support of the crossbenchers who voted against Labor’s amendments, the Government was able to put Australian consumers and small businesses first.
AFCA will commence operation in the second half of 2018 and will replace the existing Financial Ombudsman Service, Credit and Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.
“AFCA is a landmark reform that will overhaul how financial disputes are dealt with in Australia. It will operate under significantly higher monetary limits and compensation caps. This will provide considerably greater access to redress for consumers and small businesses, and in particular, farmers, who will have access to up to $2 million in compensation under the new AFCA scheme,” Minister O'Dwyer said.
The Bill was passed with a number of minor amendments moved by the Government to provide additional certainty in relation to the handling of superannuation disputes, to review AFCA’s operations after a period of 18 months from its commencement, and to enshrine in legislation the requirement that the AFCA Chair be independent. These changes respond to key issues raised by stakeholders in submissions to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee and crossbench Senators.
“I’d like to thank Professor Ian Ramsay, Ms Julie Abramson and Mr Alan Kirkland for their work on the External Dispute Resolution review, and all stakeholders who played a constructive role in the development and passage of these important reforms,” Minister O’Dwyer said.
“I encourage all interested parties to continue to engage with Dr Edey and the Transition Team who are overseeing the transition from the existing schemes to AFCA. Continued engagement will ensure that AFCA will provide better outcomes for consumers, while being accountable to all stakeholders.”
The Bill will now move to the House of Representatives for final passage.