Government Names Chair of New Dispute Scheme

The Federal Government has named Helen Coonan, a former Assistant Treasurer in the Howard Government, as the inaugural chair of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Inaugural AFCA Chair, Helen Coonan

Coonan is a former Liberal Party Senator and was the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, from late 2001 to mid 2004, during the Howard Government and left Parliament, after 15 years, in 2011.

The Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer said it was important the inaugural chair had experience across the financial services industry and, while in Government, Coonan had “…demonstrated deep knowledge and understanding of the financial services sector and the issues faced by consumers of financial products and services”.

Under the new dispute resolution framework, the Minister is able to appoint a minority of the AFCA board and said “Following the authorisation of AFCA, I intend to make other appointments to the AFCA board, including consumer and industry specialists.”

O’Dwyer added that she is seeking an application for authorisation of the AFCA scheme by 15 March, and it would begin receiving disputes from 1 November 2018 (see: Single Dispute Scheme to Start in November).

ASIC is seeking public consultation on the draft regulatory guidance which covers its oversight of the AFCA scheme.

Under the legislation used to create AFCA, the regulator has been given oversight of the scheme and has released a draft of Regulatory Guide 139 – Oversight of AFCA for public comment until 6 April 2018.

ASIC Deputy Chair, Peter Kell said the draft regulations were being released now “…as we believe that clarity about ASIC’s policy approach at this stage of the transition will assist all stakeholders”, adding that it would also allow ASIC to respond to emerging issues during the transition period.

The consultation paper and draft regulatory guide is available on the ASIC website.