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Issue 17 - May 2014

Fast, efficient, fair dispute resolution

 

In the last issue of the Circular, we announced the areas we will focus on to improve our dispute process. These initiatives are in addition to those set out in our 2013-2014 Business Plan.

We are working on a number of strategies to help FOS deliver on our core promise of resolving disputes in a more timely, efficient and fair manner. The resulting changes will be fully implemented by 1 July 2015 and may have some significant implications for our members’ dispute resolution processes.

We are working on a number of initiatives to:

  • add specialist expertise earlier in our dispute process
  • streamline our process, and
  • reduce multiple touch points and process stages.

The initiatives will also give us the opportunity to apply the dispute handling improvements that have developed from other recent initiatives including Project 500, which we implemented in August 2013 to address our dispute backlog. We are on track to achieve the project's aims by the end of June 2014, and we will assess the results to help us plan ahead to manage backlogs over the next few months.

We believe stakeholder participation in these initiatives is key to their success. As we develop and implement improvements over the next 12 months, we will be engaging with our stakeholders at various times to seek their views, understand the issues from their perspective, and provide information and updates as we implement changes. We appreciate the time and input from our stakeholders into this consultation.

The initiatives are:

  • Fast Track process: Fast-track decisions for simpler and low-value disputes.
  • Dispute Process Redesign: Replacing our current two-step dispute lodgement process with a one-step process. The new process will provide a final opportunity for financial services providers to resolve a dispute through internal dispute resolution before FOS starts its review. This initiative will focus on redesigning our process to reduce the current multiple touch points, dispute stages and timeframes. It will also enable FOS to provide earlier guidance on the merits of a dispute, and to provide earlier dispute assessments.
  • Financial Difficulty Enhancement Project: Streamlining FOS’s processes and approach in order to achieve more timely outcomes and earlier assessments in financial difficulty disputes.
  • More Effective Decisions: Introducing a new style of written decision that more effectively communicates the outcomes of disputes to both applicants and financial services providers.

For more information on these initiatives, please click below. If you have further questions, please email dpr@fos.org.au.

 

Fast-tracking decisions for simpler and low-value disputes

Key dates:

Phase one (pilot) rollout: some single credit listing disputes and other simpler banking and finance disputes

2 June 2014

Review pilot results

September 2014

Phase two rollout: all other appropriate dispute types

October to December 2014

 

In April, we consulted with some stakeholders on our proposed process to resolve simpler and low-value disputes faster. The process involves allocating an Adjudicator at an earlier stage of the dispute process to provide guidance and issue a decision if the dispute is unresolved.

The Fast Track process will be rolled out in two phases. On 2 June 2014, we will pilot the first phase on single-issue credit listing disputes and a selection of low-value banking and finance disputes. We will review this process and provide recommendations about its progress before we develop the criteria for phase two, which we aim to implement in the second half of 2014.

Simplifying our dispute process

Key dates:

Release overview of proposed process to external stakeholders

May 2014

Consult and discuss proposed process with external stakeholders including industry associations, financial services providers and consumer advocates

May to June 2014

Provide overview and follow up on stakeholder feedback

July 2014

Release further details about the new process

September to October 2014

 

We will implement a more streamlined dispute process to resolve disputes more quickly and effectively and reduce dispute stages and touch points, without compromising on the quality or the consistent resolution of disputes.

Since this project started in March we have worked on developing an improved dispute process model which will include:

  • a single lodgement process
    • the process will refer disputes to financial services providers for a final opportunity to resolve them using internal dispute resolution before FOS starts its review
  • a more streamlined case management and decision process.

We have had a number of early discussions with stakeholders about the proposed process improvements and changes.

In May, we will release a paper which outlines the proposed process improvements, and we will continue to meet and consult with stakeholders during May and June to discuss the proposed changes. We will also be attending industry liaison meetings, our Consumer Liaison group meeting and other forums and meetings with individual members to garner views and feedback. 

Streamlining our approach to financial difficulty disputes

Key dates:

Consult with financial services providers and consumer advocates

May and June 2014

Provide overview of stakeholder feedback and next steps

July and August 2014

Review and finalise financial difficulty process

September to December 2014

 

Individuals (and small businesses) can unexpectedly find themselves in a situation where they are unable to meet their repayments under a credit facility. We call this financial difficulty.

The Financial Difficulty Enhancement Project will review and streamline our approach to financial difficulty disputes and ensure we provide timely outcomes for all parties without compromising quality. Over the last month we have identified key issues and some possible options for improving our handling of financial difficulty disputes. We have also started consulting members and consumer groups about our proposed approach and possible enhancements we can make. We will continue this consultation over the next month.

Writing more effective dispute outcomes

We have reviewed the form and content of our Recommendations and Determinations so that they are faster to produce and easier for our stakeholders to understand.

All staff are now writing Recommendations and Determinations in the new style. If you have any feedback after receiving a one of the new-style decisions, please contact dpr@fos.org.au.

Changes to our Terms of Reference

Key dates:

Release draft changes to Terms of Reference (TOR) and Operational Guidelines for consultation

July 2014

Provide update on TOR feedback

September 2014

Draft TOR changes submitted to ASIC for approval

October to December 2014

TOR changes finalised and released

December 2014

 

A number of changes to our Terms of Reference were recommended in the recent Independent Review of FOS. There are also some additional Terms of Reference changes that will arise from some of the process improvements we are looking to implement, including our new Fast Track process involving Adjudicators.

Under our current Terms of Reference the monetary value of remedies that we can award are also due to be adjusted by CPI/male total average weekly earnings on 1 January 2015, so we will be making these required adjustments as part of the overall Terms of Reference changes.

At this stage we are planning to release the proposed changes for consultation in July 2014, and we intend to finalise and release the updated Terms of Reference (following ASIC approval) by 1 January 2015.

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