Media release

Today’s announcement by the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) highlighting changes to the ‘Code of Banking Practice’ showing improved consumer rights is welcomed by the National Information Centre on Retirement Investments (NICRI).

Consumers have for many years been concerned that banks in Australia may not act in their customer’s best interest and felt that banks need to be more transparent and fairer to consumers. The revision of code of banking practice sets out the commitment banks have made to their customers whether personal or small businesses.

The ABA state that the improvements to the code came after an extensive independent review and consultation with consumer groups and other relevant stakeholders which NICRI was involved.

NICRI, which provides free and independent financial information to consumers receives calls on a regular basis about banks, banking products and their rights when dealing with banks.

NICRI CEO Wendy Schilg says, ‘Enhancements to the code such as those that strengthen consumer protection and recourse, will help Australians to be confident that they will be treated fairly and transparently. This is especially important to our main demographic of callers who have retired or are leading into retirement and require reassurance that the banking industry is looking after their retirement savings.’

Changes to the code include, enhancements to processes involved when dealing with financial hardship, a commitment to provide low cost or low fee banking information when dealing with those who may receive Government Income Support or concessions, providing clarification of dispute processes including potential recourse and streamlining of banking for those in remote indigenous communities.

‘It is important that the changes enhance protection and assistance to those most vulnerable’, added Schilg. Those that feel that the code has been breached or that the bank did not meet the codes expectation have a right to complain to the organisation and if applicable, the external dispute resolution schemes available.

The changes to the code will come into effect by 1 February 2014 and according to the ABA, all it’s signatories have signed up and will implement the required changes to their systems, process and documentation by then.

NICRI supports any measures by the finance industry to strengthen consumer protection.