FOS welcomes the release of the Financial Counselling Australia (FCA) report: External Dispute Resolution: Results of a Survey of Financial Counsellors. Organisations such as FCA undertake a vital role supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers to resolve financial service disputes.
The survey asked financial counsellors to rate their experience with the two ASIC approved EDR schemes (FOS and the CIO) and whether the schemes should be merged.
Financial counsellors rated FOS 7.8 out of 10. Seventy five percent of financial counsellors believed that FOS and the CIO should merge to reduce confusion for consumers and FOS’s processes should be the benchmark in any merger.
“We welcome the FCA report and are committed to working closely with consumer organisations and all of our stakeholders, taking on their feedback to ensure that fairness, openness, simplicity and accessibility form part of everything we do,” said Chief Ombudsman Shane Tregillis.
FOS also notes the support from financial counsellors for a merger between the two schemes in order to reduce complexity for consumers.
“While competition in industry more generally is regarded as beneficial for consumers in lowering prices and improving services, the same cannot be said for competition in External Dispute Resolution. The position of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) is that competition runs counter to the core principles of an Ombudsman Scheme,” he said.
ANZOA’s submission to the Ramsay review states that competition runs “counter to the Benchmarks for Industry-based Customer Dispute Resolution… of independence, accessibility, fairness, efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.”
ASIC’s position that competition in EDR does not improve consumer outcomes is also longstanding. ASIC has reiterated this view in its recent submissions to the Financial Services Inquiry and the Ramsay Review.
“We welcome the opportunity to share our experience with current parliamentary inquiries into financial services and look forward to continuing to work with the Ramsay Review following the release of its interim report. FOS is committed to working with all our stakeholders to enhance understanding of the important role access to non-court based redress plays in enabling consumers and small businesses to resolve disputes effectively and fairly,” added Chief Ombudsman Shane Tregillis.