Resolving a problem with your bank at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority  

Updated 14 July 2020

If you are falling behind on your financial commitments because of financial problemsyou might contact your bank to see if they can help you. However, if you are unhappy with the solution they offer you, you can ask the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) for help 

This resource is for people who have already spoken to their bank and received a decision about their problem, and want to ask AFCA to review that decisionIt  includes the following information:

  • Who AFCA is 
  • Issues you can take to AFCA 
  • How to complain to AFCA 
  • What AFCA does with your complaint 

Before proceedings with this resource, please be aware that AFCA has published extensive in-depth and relevant information on their website

The purpose of this resource is to provide a quick explanation of who AFCA is, what they do, and how you could engage with them, within the context of dealing with banks only.

If you feel comfortable navigating AFCA’s website by yourself or if you are wishing to engage with AFCA in relation to decisions made by financial firms other than banks, you should head there directly. AFCA’s website is available by clicking here.

Who is AFCA?

AFCA is a notforprofit company which helps people resolve disagreements with “financial firms”, which means banks and other finance institutions. AFCA is independent from the government, and is not a court or tribunal.  

AFCA resolves complaints by helping people and their banks come to agreement on a solutionHowever, if a solution can’t be reached in this waythey can also decide the outcome by ‘making a determination’.   

What issues can I complain to AFCA about?

AFCA can help with a range of issues relating to your dealings with your bank. This could include disputes about a bank’s management of, and actions on, your: 

  • Credit card account 
  • Home loan 
  • Personal loan 
  • Investment and small business loans 
  • Bank account  

Situations where you might make a complaint to AFCA are: 

  • The bank has refused or not responded to your request to vary your loan repayments, even though you have told them that you are going through financial hardship 
  • The bank has issued you a default notice, but you don’t understand why even after asking them for an explanation 
  • The bank is continuing legal or debt collection action against you, even after you have asked them for help as you are dealing with financial hardship 
  • The bank has breached a law or duty they owe towards you 
  • The bank has charged you a fee, charge, premium, rebate or interest rate, and you don’t understand why or don’t think that you owe 
  • The bank misled you about a product or service you got from them 
  • The bank has mismanaged bank transactions in relation to your bank account, such as deposits you have made and payments made from the account.  

If you’re not sure if AFCA can assist with your complaint, give them a call and they will let you know if they can help you.  

How do I make a complaint to AFCA?

The first thing you should do before making a complaint to AFCA is to try to resolve the problem directly with your bank by filing a formal complaint with them. If you have already tried to resolve your problem with your bank by filing a formal complaint, and they have not responded to your satisfaction (including if they have not responded within a reasonable timeframe at all), you could think about asking AFCA for help by submitting a complaint there.  

  Time limits

AFCA can only accept complaints within certain time limits, which would be either:  

  • Six years from when you become aware you have suffered the loss (or ought to have become aware you suffered the loss) you want to complaint about, or  
  • Two years from you receiving a response from your bank after you complained with them through their internal dispute resolution process. 

Preparing to  make a complaint

Before making a complaint to AFCA, you should first try to take the following steps. If you struggle with doing any of these steps, AFCA may be able to provide you with information to help guide you once you commence your complaint. However, it can help expedite the process if you do your best to do your research and get organised before you make the complaint. 

Identify the issue you want to complain about

You should be prepared to tell AFCA what specific bank action you are unhappy with – this could be:  

  • Something the bank did mistakenly or incorrectly 
  • Something the bank did poorly or handled badly 
  • Something the bank failed to do altogether  

Identify the type of loss you have experienced

You should be prepared to tell AFCA what loss you have suffered because of the issue you want to complain about. This may include:  

  • Financial lossand/or  
  • Nonfinancial loss 

An example of financial loss is the difference between where your finances are now, compared to where your finances might have been if the bank hadn’t acted in the way you have an issue with.  It is important that you prove a direct link between the action you have an issue with and the loss that you say have suffered.  

An example of non-financial loss is if you experienced unnecessary stress or inconvenience because of the bank’s actions. Please note that AFCA’s approach to non-financial loss is conservative and is capped. Situations where it is awarded tend to be exceptional and where the conduct of the bank is unusually excessive.  

Identify the ideal outcome for you

You should be prepared to tell AFCA what an ideal outcome to cover the loss you say you have experienced might look like. AFCA is guided by their Rules in terms of the types of outcomes they could provide. You are more likely to get a better outcome through AFCA process if, before commencing your complaint, you do your research to match the outcome you seek with the type of loss you say you have suffered.  

Please click here for information published by AFCA in relation to the types of outcomes they can provide.  

Prepare and collect relevant supporting documents

You should collect and organise all relevant documents supporting your complaint before applying. You are not required to provide all of the documents you have to AFCA when you commence your complaint. However, doing this will help you carry out the steps above and prepare your application. It will also make sure that you are able to quickly respond to AFCA’s requests for documents once the complaint is commenced.  

If you are experiencing financial difficulty, you should also prepare a Statement of Financial Position. You can fill out this document online by clicking here. Once completed, a Statement of Financial Position helps AFCA understand your current financial position and how you propose to pay your debts.

Think about how you want to deal with AFCA

AFCA is designed for complainants to engage with personally. However, you can appoint an authorised agent to represent you in your AFCA complaint if you wish to. This person could be someone that you trust who doesn’t have their own interests in your financial affairs. It could also be a professional who charges you a fee for their service.  

Please click here for information published by AFCA in relation to authorised agents.  

Making a complaint

Once you have carried out the steps above, you can make a complaint to AFCA by completing an online form, which is available by clicking here. Making a complaint to AFCA is free. 

What does AFCA do once they have received a complaint?

AFCA follows a specific complaint resolution process once they receive a complaint.  

Stage 1: Registration and referral

Once a complaint is received, AFCA will review whether the issue of the complaint had been dealt with as a formal complaint with the bank yet. In most cases where a formal complaint had not been made with the bank yet, the complaint will be automatically referred back to the bank.  

Once AFCA is satisfied that you have had a chance to resolve the dispute with the bank directly and was unable to, they will look at whether the complaint falls within their jurisdiction. At this stage, AFCA may reach out to you and your bank for more information 

If the complaint is within their jurisdiction, AFCA will proceed to Stage 2: Case management.  

Stage 2: Case Management

AFCA will decide on how to manage your case once they have registered your complaint. This means they’ll place it into one of three streams: Fast Track, Standard & Complex, or Financial DifficultyDepending on which stream your matter is placed in, AFCA will help you and the Bank try to resolve the complaint by either going into negotiation or a conciliation conference. 

What’s the difference between a negotiation and a conciliation conference? 

negotiation is where AFCA will help you and your bank to reach an outcome together. This might involve AFCA exchanging settlement offers between you and your bank and talking each of you through what those offers mean.  

conciliation conference is an informal conference where AFCA will facilitate you and your bank to share your side of the complaint. The AFAC will then provide you and your bank with guidance on what issues have been raised and suggest some outcomes you could reach. A conciliation conference will take place over the phone.  

What’s the difference between the three streams? 

Fast Track – You complaint will be placed into Fast Track stream if it is low value and relates to a single issue. Complaints under this stream does not go to conciliation. AFCA will try to help you and the bank resolve the complaint through negotiation only, and via a quicker timeframe than the other streams 

Standard & Complex  – Your complaint will be placed into the Standard & Complex stream if 

  • It is not low value or if it relates to more than a single issue, and  
  • It does not primarily relate to financial difficulty 

AFCA may try to resolve complaints under this stream through either negotiation or telephone conciliation.

Financial Difficulty – Your complaint will be placed into the Financial Difficult stream if:  

  • It is not low value or if it relates to more than a single issue, and  
  • Iprimarily relates to financial difficulty 

AFCA will mostly likely try to resolve complaints under this stream via telephone conciliation. 

What happens if AFCA can’t resolve the complaint at this stage? 

If you and your bank are unable to reach an agreement during the case management phase, AFCA will send both parties their preliminary assessment of the matter. If either you or the bank reject that preliminary assessmentyour complaint will progress to Stage 3: Decision.  

 

Stage 3: Decision (if required)

In Stage 3, AFCA will review the complaint and make a decision. An AFCA decision is made in writing and will set out: 

  • The relevant facts available at the time AFCA made the decision 
  • The relevant issues arising in the complaint and what AFCA thinks of those issues, and 
  • AFCA’s decision as to how the complaint should be resolved and why.  

Once you have received AFCA’s decision you can decide whether you want to accept it or not.  If you accept it, your bank will be bound by it. If you don’t accept it, then neither party will be bound by that decision.  

Extra Resources

Financial supports

Temporary supports are available to help people affected by COVID 19, including:  

  • JobSeeker payments 
  • Early access to superannuation 
  • Rent assistance 
  • Renegotiation of mortgage  

These resources contain information about steps you could could take if you lose your income because of COVID-19:  

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