Dispute resolution

Financial firms* must have a dispute resolution system that consists of:

  • internal dispute resolution (IDR) procedures that meet the standards or requirements made or approved by ASIC; and
  • membership of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

*ASIC Regulatory Guide 267 Oversight of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (RG 267) sets out who must have a dispute resolution system and which financial firms must be members of AFCA.

Internal dispute resolution (IDR)

Regulatory Guide 165 Licensing: Internal and external dispute resolution (RG 165) sets out how financial firms that are required to comply with IDR requirements can meet their obligations. These include the requirement that financial firms have in-house processes to resolve complaints received about their products and services, including how they handle complaints.

Note: RG 165 applies to complaints received by financial firms before 5 October 2021. From 5 October 2021 Regulatory Guide 271 Internal dispute resolution (RG 271) comes into effect. We will withdraw RG 165 on 5 October 2022.

External dispute resolution (EDR)

Regulatory Guide 267 Oversight of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (RG 267) sets out which financial firms must be members of AFCA and how ASIC will perform its oversight role in relation to AFCA.

AFCA is a single dispute resolution scheme for financial services and commenced operations on 1 November 2018. AFCA can resolve complaints that a financial firm could not resolve at IDR.

AFCA replaces the Financial Ombudsman Service Limited (FOS), Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) and the statutory Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT), the predecessor schemes.

AFCA can consider complaints about:

Notifying ASIC of changes to your AFCA membership

You must inform ASIC in writing about changes to your AFCA membership.

This includes circumstances where:

  • you fail to renew your AFCA membership,
  • you no longer require AFCA membership; or
  • AFCA has terminated your membership of the scheme.

More about your ongoing AFS obligations

Predecessor dispute resolution schemes

ASIC approved EDR schemes

Prior to the commencement of AFCA, there were two schemes approved under the Corporations Act and the National Consumer Credit Protection Act operating in the Australian financial and credit industries.

They were:

  1. Financial Ombudsman Service Limited (FOS)
  2. Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO)

Over the years, ASIC approved a total of 8 EDR schemes. These schemes were approved under ASIC Regulatory Guide 139 Approval and oversight of external dispute resolution schemes (RG 139). This guide provides the framework for the approved versions of the FOS terms of reference and CIO rules.

RG 139 will remain in force until all those complaints are closed. At that time, we will withdraw RG 139.

On 1 July 2008, FOS was formed by the merger of 3 pre-existing ASIC-approved EDR schemes:

  • the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman (BFSO);
  • the Insurance Ombudsman Service Limited (IOS); and
  • the Financial Industry Complaints Service (FICS).

Two other pre-existing ASIC-approved EDR schemes also joined FOS:

  • the Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre (CUDRC); and
  • the Insurance Brokers Disputes Limited (IBDL).

When the then ASIC-approved Financial Co-operative Dispute Resolution Scheme (FCDRS) wound down its operations in 2009, some of its members joined FOS while others joined CIO.

Superannuation Complaints Tribunal

The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) is an independent tribunal set up by the Commonwealth Government to deal with complaints about superannuation funds, annuities and deferred annuities, and retirement savings accounts.

The SCT now continues operation to resolve complaints received on or before 31 October 2018, and will close when that work is complete.

Open complaints at a predecessor scheme

If a consumer has a complaint with FOS, CIO or the SCT, that complaint will continue to be dealt with by that scheme. This means that:

  • All FOS disputes that were received by FOS before 1 November 2018 and that are open on or after 1 November 2018 will be handled under the existing FOS Terms of Reference.
  • All CIO disputes that were received by the CIO before 1 November 2018 and that are open on or after 1 November 2018 will be handled under the existing CIO Rules.
  • All SCT complaints that were received by the SCT before 1 November 2018 and are open on or after 1 November 2018 will be handled under the SCT’s jurisdiction.

Dispute resolution and consumers

Information about dispute resolution for consumers is on our consumer website Moneysmart.

How to complains

If you’re unhappy about a product or service, or unsure whether something is legal, follow these simple steps to complain.

If your complaint involves a scam, see scams for who to report it to.

1. Contact the business

The first step is always to contact the business to explain the problem and how you’d like it fixed. In many cases a simple phone call, email or visit is all that is needed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can contact the following organisations for help:

2. Write a letter of complaint to the business

If the problem isn’t fixed with a simple call or visit, make a formal complaint to the business in writing.

In your letter or email, include:

  • the word ‘complaint’ in the heading or subject line
  • your name, contact details and the date
  • a clear explanation of the problem
  • copies of relevant documents, such as receipts or invoices

Keep the originals of any documents you send and a copy of your complaint letter.

You can use these templates to create a letter:

  • Financial Rights Legal Centre’s sample letter generator — for complaints about insurance, financial advice and bank accounts
  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)’s complaint letter tool — for complaints about consumer products and services

3. Contact an independent complaints body

If the problem is still not resolved, you can complain to an independent body.

Financial services, energy, water and telecommunications businesses all belong to an External Dispute Resolution (EDR) scheme. The EDR scheme hears complaints for free.

An EDR scheme can help you if:

  • The business didn’t respond to your complaint within a reasonable time.
  • You’re not happy with how the business dealt with your complaint.
  • You’re not happy with the offer the business has made.

External Dispute Resolution (EDR) schemes

Financial organisations (banks, credit providers)
Energy and water

Consumer goods and services complaints

State government agencies help with complaints about consumer goods and services.

Prices and competition complaints

The ACCC and the state government agencies above can help with complaints about prices, competition, unfair market practices, product safety, franchises and advertising.

Company misconduct complaints

If you believe there has been misconduct relating to the management of a company, its directors or officers, you can lodge a complaint with ASIC.

If you’re not sure who to contact, call the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)’s Infoline — 1300 300 630.

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