Annual Review 2021–22

Complaints lodged by consumer advocates and financial counsellors

Consumer advocates and financial counsellors play an important role at AFCA. They represent people throughout their complaint free of charge, as well as referring people directly to AFCA for help.

Referrals from these stakeholders provide a vital pathway for people who may be experiencing difficult circumstances, and who may not have been aware of our service.

There were 3,418 complaints referred to AFCA by consumer advocates in 2021–22, which was a 20% increase on the previous year.

There were an additional 840 complaints lodged by consumer advocates on behalf of complainants during the same period, which was a 13% increase on the previous year. The percentage of complaints submitted by financial counsellors remained similar to the previous year at almost 60%. Significantly, a third of complaints lodged by consumer advocates were on behalf of First Nations peoples, which is largely attributable to the large number of complaints about the Youpla Group (see here for more information).

People experiencing difficult circumstances

Sixteen per cent of complaints lodged by consumer advocates were for people experiencing difficult circumstances, or who needed additional help to understand and stay engaged with the complaints process.

The better we understand an individual’s circumstances, the better we can tailor our service:

  • Family violence – victim-survivors of family violence may be experiencing severe trauma and/or financial hardship as a result of financial abuse and may also be at risk of homelessness.
  • Other help needed – this can include a range of circumstances that require consideration about how we conduct the complaints process, including for people who are incarcerated.
  • Mental health condition – people can experience generalised stress and anxiety as a result of financial difficulty or chronic pain, or may even be experiencing suicidal ideation. They may also suffer from a range of mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress syndrome.
  • Literacy – we can engage wholly over the phone to ensure there are no misunderstandings as a result of low literacy or numeracy.
  • Cognitive condition – people who report they have a cognitive condition let us know they need help to understand words and concepts and, in some cases, may find it difficult to manage strong emotions, such as anger. We work together with the authorised representative to explain complex legal and financial documents.
Complaints lodged by consumer advocates

Complaints lodged by consumer advocates chart

Complaints referred to AFCA by consumer advocates

Complaints referred to AFCA by consumer advocates chart

Compensation amounts awarded

Compensation amounts awarded chart

Stage at which complaints closed

Total

2020–21

2021–22

Before referral

5

4

Registration and Referral

258

194

Jurisdictional review

32

36

Case management 1

89

105

Case management 2

84

81

Preliminary Assessment

34

26

Decision

30

25

 

1 This category includes faith-based organisations, charities, disability, migrant, multicultural, youth and other specialist advocacy services

Complaints lodged by consumer advocates

56% of these complaints are now closed

41% of complaints were closed at Registration and Referral

20% of complaints related to financial difficulty (non-business)

52% of complaints related to credit products.

Top three credit products were personal loans (174), home loans (109) and credit cards (72)

33% of complaints related to life insurance

Standout life insurance product was funeral plans (241)

Complaints lodged by financial counsellors

71% of these complaints are now closed

46% of complaints were closed at Registration and Referral. Of these, 95% were resolved by the financial firm

75% of complaints related to credit products

Top three credit products were personal loans (137), home loans (92) and credit cards (61)

11% of complaints related to life insurance

Standout life insurance product was funeral plans (48)

32% of complaints related to financial difficulty (non-business)

Stage at which complaints closed

Total

2020–21

2021–22

Before referral

1

2

Registration and Referral

185

158

Jurisdictional review

18

24

Case management 1

64

69

Case management 2

61

66

Preliminary Assessment

17

17

Decision

13

5

Compaints lodged by financial councillor organisations

53% of complaints were lodged by financial counsellors from just 10 organisations:

  • Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network (ICAN) (50)
  • The Salvation Army Moneycare (42)
  • Anglicare Victoria (41)
  • Uniting Vic/Tas (28) [includes Lentara UnitingCare and UnitingCare Regen]
  • St Vincent de Paul Society (WA) (19)
  • Broome Circle (15)
  • Child & Family Services (CAFS) (15)
  • EACH (15)
  • Primary Care Connect (14)
  • UnitingCare Community (14)

49% of complaints lodged by financial counsellors were lodged against 12 financial firms

Geographic spread of complaints lodged by financial counsellors

State /Territory

2020–21

2021–22

ACT

2%

1%

NSW

12%

13%

NT

3%

5%

QLD

12%

20%

SA

7%

6%

TAS

2%

3%

VIC

50%

39%

WA

11%

14%

Top 12 financial firms in complaints lodged by financial counsellors

Financial firm

Total

Youpla Group

50

Commonwealth Bank of Australia

43

National Australia Bank Limited

24

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited

22

Citigroup Pty Limited

18

Latitude Finance Australia

18

Toyota Finance Australia Limited

14

Westpac Banking Corporation

13

Ausfinancial Pty Ltd

10

AAI Limited

7

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank Limited

7

Money3 Loans Pty Ltd

7

Complaints lodged by community-based lawyers

33% of these complaints are now closed

27% of complaints were closed at Registration and Referral. Of these, 97% were resolved by the financial firm

4% of complaints related to financial difficulty (non-business)

23% of complaints related to credit products

Top three credit products were personal loans (31), home loans (16) and credit cards (11)

67% of complaints related to life insurance

Standout life insurance product was funeral plans (188)

Stage at which complaints closed

Total

2020–21

2021–22

Before referral

1

2

Registration and Referral

56

29

Jurisdictional review

11

9

Case management 1

17

30

Case management 2

22

9

Preliminary Assessment

14

7

Decision

15

20

Top 11 financial firms in complaints lodged by community-based lawyers

Financial firm

2021–22

Youpla Group

202

CBA

9

Insurance Australia Limited

6

AAI Limited

5

ANZ

5

Westpac

5

Jacaranda Finance

3

NAB

3

OnePath Life

3

TAL Life

3

Toyota Finance

3

Complainants lodged by community-based lawyers organisations

81% 1 of complaints (by community legal centres) were lodged by community-based lawyers from just five organisations:

  • Legal Aid NSW (174)
  • Financial Rights Legal Centre (45)
  • Consumer Action Law Centre (24)
  • Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (10)
  • North Australian Aboriginal Legal Service (9)

Three quarters of these complaints related to the collapse of the Youpla group of companies.

1 188 of these complaints related to funeral insurance.

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