The Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) has revised its Code of Banking Practice, saying the new version ‘improves rights for customers’.
ABA chief executive, Steven Münchenberg, says the code is contractually binding on subscribing banks and sets out the minimum standards banks have agreed to follow when dealing with personal and small business customers.
“The code sets the standards for fairness, transparency, behaviour and accountability that customers can expect from their banks. Customers want to be confident that their bank will do the right thing by them, and the code is an important element in giving the assurance that we will.”
Münchenberg says the revised version allocates customers additional rights - on top of those in the law - and provides straightforward ways for customers to complain if they feel their bank has not met its code obligations.
He says significant changes to the code include:
New and stronger financial hardship provisions that mean banks will need to be more alert to people who may be in financial difficulty in meeting their repayments, respond promptly to requests for assistance, and ensure bank staff are well trained in understanding the bank’s financial hardship commitments;
A commitment not to combine accounts or assign debt when a bank is actively considering whether a customer is in financial difficulty;
A commitment to provide information about no or low fee accounts to customers if the bank becomes aware the customer has a Commonwealth concession card, such as a Seniors Health Card, Health Care Card or Pensioner Concession Card;
Clarification that chargeback rights exist for disputed transactions on relevant debit cards, including debits under recurrent payment arrangements;
New provisions for customers in remote Indigenous communities, including making relevant information accessible, providing assistance to customers to meet identification requirements and appropriately training relevant staff to be culturally aware;
A commitment that banks will only sell debts to third parties that agree to comply with the Debt Collection Guideline: for Collectors and Creditors; and
A commitment to send customers with a mortgage, on a primary place of residence or residential investment property, an annual reminder about their insurance obligations.
Banks have so-far welcomed the changes, with ANZ CEO Australia, Philip Chronican, saying the major lender will adopt the revised code and that it will provide ‘improved services for its customers that are most vulnerable’.
“ANZ welcomes these improved industry standards as we know there is more we can do to understand and assist our most vulnerable customers. These improvements expand on the level of support available to customers in need and will help customers to better access that support.”