2020–21 Annual Review

Banking and finance complaints

Between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021

Banking and finance complaint data includes financial difficulty complaints. For specific information on financial difficulty complaints, please see Financial difficulty complaints.

Complaints received

42,261 complaints received

55% resolved at Registration and Referral stage

Top five banking and finance complaints received by product 1
Product Total
Credit cards 9,903
Home loans 6,400
Personal transaction accounts 5,758
Personal loans 5,343
Electronic banking 1,668
Top five banking and finance complaints received by issue 2
Issue Total
Unauthorised transactions 4,878
Service quality 4,373
Default listing 3,750
Financial firm failure to respond to request for assistance 2,735
Incorrect fees/costs 2,480
Complaints closed

44,258 complaints closed 3

Average time to close a complaint 81 days

Stage at which banking and finance complaints closed
Stage Total
At Registration 24,388
At Case Management 11,779
At Rules Review 3,707
Preliminary Assessment 2,341
Decision 2,043
Average time taken to close banking and finance complaints
Time Total
Closed 0–30 days 32%
Closed 31–60 days 31%
Closed 61–180 days 29%
Closed 181–365 days 5%
Closed greater than 365 days 4%

 

AFCA can consider complaints about a range of banking and finance products and services including:

  • deposits to current accounts and savings accounts
  • banking payment systems including over the counter payments, ATM transactions, internet and telephone banking, secure payment systems, direct debits and foreign currency transfers
  • credit cards, overdrafts and lines of credit
  • Buy Now Pay Later arrangements
  • consumer leases and hire purchase arrangements
  • short-term finance such as payday lending
  • home loans, including reverse mortgages
  • personal loans such as car loans, holiday loans and debt consolidation loans
  • personal investment loans and small business loans
  • guarantees.

The types of issues and problems AFCA resolves include:

  • incorrect, dishonoured or unauthorised transactions, or mistaken payments
  • fees or charges that were incorrectly applied or calculated
  • incorrect, misleading or inadequate information about a product or service
  • a financial firm’s failure to respond appropriately to a customer in financial difficulty
  • decisions made by a financial firm, including whether a decision to lend was made responsibly
  • a financial firm’s failure to follow instructions
  • privacy and confidentiality breaches
  • inadequate service, including unreasonable delays or failure to assist a vulnerable customer.

AFCA received 42,261 banking and finance complaints in 2020–21, a 9.5% decrease in the number of complaints compared to last year. We attribute this decrease to positive changes made in the industry following the Financial Services Royal Commission, as well as a reduction in financial difficulty complaints due to COVID-19 repayment deferral arrangements and government support measures.

During the year, 44,258 banking and finance complaints were closed. Of the complaints closed, 24,388 complaints were closed at Registration and Referral, 11,779 were closed at Case Management, with 2,043 progressing through to the final Decision stage.

The average time taken to close banking and finance complaints was 81 days, with 32% closed between 0 to 30 days.

Most complaints were about credit cards (9,903), followed by home loans (6,400) and personal transaction accounts (5,758).

Complaints about electronic banking increased by 76%, with unauthorised transactions representing 28% of complaints, and mistaken internet payment accounting for 19%. This reflects an increase in online transactions and scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Complaints related to personal transaction accounts were up by 48%, with unauthorised transactions representing 29% of these complaints.

Overall, the most common issues complained about were unauthorised transactions (4,878), service quality (4,373) and default listings (3,750).

Decorative image

Case study

The complainants are Aboriginal Australians who grew up in a remote community in regional NSW. They were both educated to year 10 and had limited financial literacy. The complainants owned their home in a regional town, with an outstanding home loan balance of around $230,000. They also had credit cards with credit limits totalling $20,000.

In June 2007, the complainants approached the lender seeking to refinance their home loan balance, as well as their credit card balances (that were at their maximum credit limits). The lender obtained statements showing they had defaulted on their existing home loan repayments nine times in the five months before they made their refinance application with the lender. This included defaulting on their most recent repayment.

The lender approved the refinance and provided the complainants a top-up of $14,711 in additional credit. The complainants used the additional credit to meet the first few months of loan repayments, but they fell into default again within six months.

The lender encouraged the complainants to draw down on their superannuation to meet their loan repayments.

Over the ensuing 14 years, the complainants paid $121,595 from their superannuation towards the loan, as well as a further $387,725 in other repayments, for a total of over $509,000 in repayments. Despite these repayments, in 2021, the outstanding loan balance remained around $260,000, which was the same as the starting loan balance in 2007, due to the default fees and interest that had been charged on the loan.

Findings and outcome

AFCA found the loan was an unjust transaction under section 76 of the National Credit Code because the lender should have been aware from the outset that the complainants could not afford to meet their loan repayments and were in financial hardship.

AFCA also found it was inappropriate for the lender to suggest that the complainants withdraw money from their superannuation to make their loan repayments, when it was clear they were in long-term financial hardship.

AFCA required the lender to waive all interest, fees and charges, except the interest the complainants would have paid on their pre-existing home loan and credit cards.

By reconstructing the home loan using historical interest rates, AFCA found that the complainants had made sufficient repayments to repay the entire loan in 2016.

The lender was required to refund $128,445 in repayments the complainants had made since 2016.

This represented a difference in position of around $400,000 compared with the position the complainants were in before they came to AFCA (debt waiver of over $260,000, plus $128,445 in compensation for overpayments).

Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.

Case study

In 2015, the complainant obtained a home loan of $440,000 from the lender to purchase a property. The complainant subsequently fell behind with their loan repayments. The complainant said the lender did not lend responsibly when it provided the loan. They also said the loan was set up incorrectly and should have been in the name of their company, not in their own name.

Findings and outcome

AFCA determined that the lender had complied with its responsible lending obligations when it provided the loan. The lender made reasonable enquiries and undertook reasonable verification of the complainant’s financial situation. As the complainant had recently commenced a new job, the lender sought confirmation from the complainant’s employer of the terms of her employment, including that she was not subject to a probation period.

The lender also verified that an existing personal loan held by the complainant would be cleared, and that a recent loan application with another financial firm had not proceeded. Based on the serviceability assessment undertaken by the lender, as well as AFCA’s independent serviceability assessment, the loan was affordable and met the complainant’s requirements and objectives.

AFCA determined that the lender had not made an error or misled the complainant by setting up the loan in the company’s name. While the complainant had initially applied for a loan in the company name, this was related to the purchase of a different property. There was later email correspondence about the loan being taken out in the complainant’s personal name and the documents (which the complainant reviewed and signed) made it clear the loan was to be in the complainant’s own name.

Case studies are used to demonstrate AFCA’s approach to an issue and have been simplified for length and clarity.

One complaint can have multiple products.

One complaint can have multiple issues.

This includes 9,273 complaints received before 1 July 2020, and 34,985 received from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021.

Sorry, we’re currently offline.

Would you like to end your chat with AFCA?

Please bear in mind that your conversation will not be saved.

AFCA chat service terms and conditions

Welcome to our live chat help service.

Please be advised we cannot provide you with financial or legal advice. However, we may be able to refer you to a community legal centre or financial counselling service if you need help.

Our live chat is operated by Genesys Cloud on behalf of AFCA. Any personal information provided in this chat will be captured by both organisations in accordance with their privacy policies, available at www.afca.org.au/privacy and www.genesys.com/company/legal/privacy-policy

Offline

We provide consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints.

Please enter your details to start your chat with an AFCA representative.

Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Please enter a valid phone number

We provide consumers and small businesses with fair, free and independent dispute resolution for financial complaints.

Welcome to our live chat help service.

An agent should be with you shortly.