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ASIC urged to put complaints data in context

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The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says it will hear from members before responding to an Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) consultation on proposed new standards for the handling of customer complaints by financial companies.

ASIC says the proposals, which could include collecting and publishing companies’ internal dispute resolution (IDR) data, will lead to better outcomes and increased transparency.

Spokesman Campbell Fuller told ICA will “prepare and lodge a submission in due course”.

“ICA advocates that the financial firms are provided with ample time to implement ASIC’s proposed changes,” he said.

“ICA also advocates collection and publication of disputes by the regulator should be guided by relevant metrics and context. This would ensure dispute information is relevant to both consumers, financial firms and the financial services industry.”

Hayne royal commission hearings highlighted a number of issues with complaints handling, including in the general insurance industry.

Under the proposed reforms, financial companies would be required by ASIC to meet new standards when they deal with complaints through IDR arrangements.

ASIC also wants to reduce maximum timeframes for IDR responses, set clear standards about what should be in written reasons for decisions, and establish a framework for complaints data reporting.

“It is widely acknowledged there is room for much improvement when it comes to handling consumer complaints in our financial system,” ASIC Deputy Chairman Karen Chester said.

“Consumers expect and need a fair, timely and effective way to have their complaints dealt with, and to be provided redress where appropriate.

“Firm performance in how they handle customer complaints, and their interaction with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), will increasingly be in plain sight.

“This greater transparency will inform consumer and broader public understanding of how well firms treat their customers.”

ASIC aims to release new IDR standards in a regulatory guide by the end of this year. A separate consultation on the publication of IDR data will start early next year.

To respond to the consultation documents before August 9, click here.