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Anonymous no more: AFCA to name insurers caught up in disputes

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Insurers involved in consumer disputes will have their names revealed, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has announced.

The policy change, which also extends to other financial services firms, will apply to disputes that have been accepted and resolved by AFCA.

“One of our main commitments as a new organisation is to be open, transparent and accountable to the public,” CEO David Locke says in AFCA’s latest newsletter.

“AFCA plays an important public role and we recognise that transparency in our data is essential to rebuild trust in the financial sector."

The change will come into effect on July 1 after AFCA has amended its rules.

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The financial services dispute resolution body plans to also publish detailed six-monthly reports of its work, definite systemic issues it has identified, and the firms involved. Comparative tables of complaints accepted and resolved by financial firms will be made public too.

Consumer advocates have welcomed the changes but the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) is concerned insurers with significantly larger market share could be unfairly disadvantaged.

“Naming insurers without context risks creating unjustified reputational damage,” ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“For example, publishing the raw number of disputes involving each business would not take into account the fact large businesses are likely to receive more complaints. Insurers that specialise in mass-market products may also receive more disputes.

“The ICA advocates that the publication of disputes lodged with the regulator and the naming of insurers should be guided by relevant metrics and context. This would ensure dispute information is relevant to both consumers and industry.”

ICA is keen to engage further with AFCA over the changes.

According to Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody, the revised rules will achieve better outcomes for buyers and the financial services sector.

“It is very positive that individual determinations from AFCA will include the name of the firm involved. There is no reason why this information should be hidden,” Mr Brody told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Consumer advocates have long said that the identity of firms subject to definite systemic issue investigation will be made public. The public should be given the opportunity to know if particular firms have engaged in systemic misconduct.

“Knowing that systemic issues identified by AFCA will be made public provides a greater incentive for the firm to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”