The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has received more than 500 complaints* about four Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) companies, also known as the Youpla group, since AFCA began operating in 2018.
Of the more than 500 registered complaints, AFCA has issued 178 decisions against the companies, all in favour of the complainants due to misleading or deceptive conduct.
More than $1.4 million has been awarded in compensation to ACBF customers, however AFCA understands 61 of its determinations remain unpaid, which is close to $500,000 in compensation outstanding to policyholders.
AFCA Deputy Chief Ombudsman Dr June Smith said ACBF was uncooperative during the dispute resolution process, prolonging the resolution of complaints lodged by First Nations policyholders, who were unfairly targeted by ACBF using unconscionable sales practices.
“Since December 2021, ACBF have failed to engage with AFCA. The firm’s unreasonable behaviour meant that these First Nations policyholders were forced to endure a drawn out and difficult process,” Dr Smith said.
AFCA understands that nearly half a million dollars in compensation awarded in its determinations has not yet been paid to complainants and that the ACBF/Youpla group of companies has now been placed into liquidation.
“AFCA acknowledges the devastating effect the liquidations will have on many First Nations people and communities, along with the frustration and hurt complainants and their representatives must feel about these developments,” Dr Smith said.
"We know that families put money into ACBF funds to help avoid a financial burden being placed on other family members at times of Sorry Business.”
Due to the firms being placed into liquidation, Dr Smith said AFCA has paused work on the remaining complaints against ACBF.
“AFCA pauses complaints against insolvent firms because we don’t want to put people through the complaints process when there is likely no prospect of compensation being paid by the firm due to liquidation.”
However, AFCA is urging affected consumers to continue to register their complaints in case of further developments.
“AFCA recognises and understands that many ACBF customers are in a difficult situation. They have suffered considerable financial loss as a result of the actions of these financial firms, and now find that the firms’ insolvency means there is little likelihood of any compensation awarded being paid to them,” Dr Smith said.
“However, ACBF customers should lodge their complaints with AFCA as soon as possible, so that their dispute is registered in our system should anything change.”
*As at 20 April 2022, AFCA had received a total of 653 complaints about the Youpla Group.
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- The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is a non-government ombudsman service providing free, fair and independent help with financial disputes.
- AFCA is a one-stop-shop for consumers and small businesses who have a dispute with their financial firm, over things such as banking, credit, insurance, advice, investments or superannuation.
- Where an agreement cannot be reached between parties, AFCA can issue decisions that are binding on financial firms.
- AFCA’s process allows financial firms to first address a complaint with consumers directly, before progressing to more formal resolution methods. Around 77% of complaints resolve at the registration and case management stages.