AFCA receives 5,000 COVID-19 related complaints

Australians customers in dispute with their bank, insurer, super fund or financial firm have lodged more than 80,000 complaints in the last 12 months

Written on 8 July, 2020
Allyssa Hextell

Australians customers in dispute with their bank, insurer, super fund or financial firm have lodged more than 80,000 complaints in the last 12 months, with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) securing $258.6 million in compensation and refunds.

AFCA Chief Executive Officer and Chief Ombudsman David Locke said most complaints have been about credit, insurance claims, and superannuation.

“One in ten complaints also related to financial difficulty – where a consumer was unable to make repayments on loans due to unforeseen circumstances or over-commitment.”

People made 80,546 complaints to AFCA between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020. This is a 13.7 per cent increase in monthly complaints compared to the last financial year (FY18/19).

General insurance complaint numbers include the following:

Delay in claim handling 3,521
Claim amount 3,171
Denial of claim – exclusion/condition 3,032
Denial of claim 2,337
Service quality 1,353
Locke said complaints relating to the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to involve financial difficulty.

“Australian consumers have faced a number of significant challenges this year,” he said. “The pandemic has had a particular impact on Australian households, with 20 per cent of COVID-19 related complaints being about financial hardship.”

He said AFCA saw less complaints relating to COVID-19 than anticipated due to the proactive response taken by financial firms.

“We commend financial institutions for their quick response to the pandemic. As always, we encourage banks and insurers to maintain open and transparent communication with their customers about the support available to them if they’re experiencing financial difficulty.”

Since the virus was declared a pandemic in March, AFCA has received 4,773 complaints relating to COVID-19. Most of these complaints have been about general insurance claims (1,813) with more than 1,500 of these being travel insurance complaints.

The second most thorny issue for consumers was credit with 1,711 complaints, with almost a quarter of these being about a failure to respond to requests for assistance. There were also 791 COVID-19 complaints about superannuation, a majority of which related to early access of super.

“We anticipate seeing more financial difficulty related COVID-19 complaints over the next six months as government support, such as JobKeeper payments are wound back, along with the end of financial firm initiatives such as a ban on rental evictions, and mortgage pausing,” Locke concluded.