The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme that deals with complaints from consumers and small business about financial products and services. AFCA is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee that has been authorised by the responsible minister to operate the AFCA dispute resolution scheme in accordance with the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
Membership of AFCA is required under law or a licence condition of a financial firm. AFCA operations are financed by contributions made by its members. The AFCA scheme is free to consumers and small business who make a complaint.
AFCA is governed by an independent Board of Directors. The Board of Directors consists of an independent Chair and an equal number of Directors with consumer and industry expertise. The Board appoints an independent Chief Ombudsman and CEO, who is delegated authority for the day-to-day management of AFCA by the Board and is supported by a Senior Leadership Group. The Chief Ombudsman and CEO then sub-delegates powers to AFCA employees. The Board also appoints ombudsmen, adjudicators and panel members who make decisions on complaints dealt with by AFCA.
We hold ourselves to high standards of corporate governance when running AFCA.
AFCA has taken the ASX Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations, issued by the ASX Corporate Governance Council, as being a baseline for good standards of corporate governance in Australia. Where possible, each Recommendation is complied with, but where it is not appropriate to do so, AFCA has sought to clearly explain its departure from the relevant Recommendation. Details of how this applies in practice can be found in our Annual Reviews.
The AFCA Constitution is the main source of information about how Australian Financial Complaints Authority Limited operates as a company. It includes how to become a member and what rights members have, how directors and other board appointments are made, what powers and duties the directors have, and how our complaint resolution Rules are developed, agreed and implemented.
Our dispute resolution scheme is set out in published Rules, which were approved by ASIC on 6 September 2018. The Rules apply to complaints received by us from 1 November 2018. The Rules set out:
Compared with the significant number of complaints that are resolved by agreement or by a decision, there have been very few matters that have been challenged in court, since the first in 2004.
However, various courts have considered the operation of contractual external dispute resolution schemes over that time. We have compiled an overview of the judgements involving AFCA and its predecessors and included what we have taken from these decisions.