The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has issued a reminder that consumers do not need to pay any fee to lodge a complaint with the dispute resolution body.
“It is important that consumers know they do not need to pay someone a fee to lodge a complaint with AFCA. We are an independent ombudsman service and we are free to consumers,” AFCA chief executive David Locke said.
The message from the government body comes on the back of the news it has banned MCR Partners from lodging complaints on behalf of consumers and small businesses. The firm had been providing these services at a cost to consumers.
AFCA’s action means MCR Partners, and its directors, employees and agents, cannot lodge any complaints for a period of 15 months, commencing 26 June 2020 and ending on 30 September 2021.
The ban comes under AFCA Rule 2.2g, which allows the government agency to exclude a complaint if the complainant is represented or assisted by an agent that may receive remuneration for this service and the agent is considered to have engaged in inappropriate conduct that is not in the best interest of the complainant, or the complaint is not accompanied by information required by AFCA.
The action represents the first time AFCA has used the discretion granted by this rule.
The complaints body pointed out the 15-month ban means it will not deal with any new or existing complaints raised through MCR Partners, but will still process existing complaints already in the system by dealing directly with consumers or with an alternative representative.
Consumers with a current complaint in the system who have been affected by this development have been notified.
“AFCA is very clear about its expectations of agents who lodge complaints on behalf of consumers. We expect that agents act in a manner compatible with our rules and purpose,” Locke said.
“Dispute resolution can be a stressful experience for the people involved. We will continue to work with the complainants involved to minimise any impact caused by this decision.”
MCR Partners’ situation will be reviewed by the authority in September 2021.