The financial complaints body says it has never been more needed with 100,000 issues this year alone.
AFCA racks up $1bn in refunds, reappoints CEO
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has notched up more than $1 billion in compensation since it began in 2018 and has just reappointed its inaugural CEO and chief ombudsman David Locke for a second five-year term.
The AFCA chair said Mr Locke had been influential in merging the functions of its three predecessor bodies, the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman, and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.
“David has met the challenge of bringing together three separate dispute resolution bodies to build a new, world-class scheme,” Professor John Pollaers said.
“He has also led the organisation through a period of significant growth in complaints as a result of the COVID pandemic, natural disasters and scams.”
This financial year AFCA is on track to receive close to 100,000 complaints, up from 70,000 last year, and almost double the level of its predecessors in their final year of operation.
Professor Pollaers said the body had received a positive report card from an independent review in 2021, which found it was “performing well” in a difficult environment.
He said Mr Locke had overseen significant initiatives such as the development of the publicly searchable AFCA Datacube, which allows firms and consumers to compare complaints performance; a new funding model; an ongoing review of AFCA rules; and an IT transformation.
“AFCA provides a vital service,” Professor Pollaers said. “Consumers, small businesses and financial firms can participate in the financial system with confidence that a robust process is in place in the event of a dispute.
“The board is delighted that David has accepted our invitation to continue to lead this important work.”
Since November 2018, the AFCA said it had resolved more than 320,000 complaints and secured consumers refunds topping $1 billion.
It had also identified and resolved 236 systemic issues resulting in refunds to 4.7 million consumers totalling more than $278 million and handled more than 5,000 victims of about weather disasters and 17,000 COVID-19-related complaints.
Mr Locke, who will begin his new term on 28 June 2023, said he was honoured to be reappointed.
“AFCA plays a very important role in Australia’s financial services system, and it is a great privilege to lead such an amazing group of people who are passionate about access to justice and fairness to all,” he said.
“AFCA’s services have, sadly, never been more needed. We will continue to work in partnership with financial firms, consumer bodies and regulators to share lessons from our work and drive improved practices.
“We want to see financial firms resolve more disputes themselves, so fewer matters have to be escalated to AFCA.”
Prior to heading up the AFCA, Mr Locke was a lawyer who worked in London before moving to Australia in 2011 to help establish the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.