Commission denies CBA’s request not to publish evidence

by AB05 Mar 2018

The royal banking commission has rejected CBA’s request not to disclose parts of evidence regarding the bank’s CreditCard Plus product. 

The commission only agreed to keep confidential the name and policy number of the CBA consumer who made a complaint about the product.

In a note released last Friday, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne said CBA applied for a non-publication direction under s 6D(3) section of the Royal Commissions Act regarding parts of a draft statement to be given by a CBA employee about CreditCard Plus.

The evidence refers to CBA’s communications with ASIC regarding CreditCard Plus, an add-on insurance policy sold with credit cards, personal loans, home loans, and car loans. CBA said in its non-publication application that those communications should be treated as confidential.

ASIC announced in August 2017 that CBA would refund over 65,000 customers about $10m after selling them the consumer credit insurance product. The regulator said the product was unsuitable for those customers.

Details of the remediation program are among those CBA asked not to be published.

“General assertions are made that certain kinds of communication, such as, for example, communications between CBA and regulators, are confidential. Why the particular communications should be treated in this way is not explained,” said Hayne. 

He added that arguments framed in such a way are “unhelpful and unpersuasive”.

“Absent ASIC joining in an application for a non-publication direction, I do not accept that a non-publication direction should be made in respect of any of those parts of the draft statement.” 

Hayne said it was also necessary to bear in mind that CBA acknowledged in its first submission to the commission that the conduct concerned in the evidence fell short of community standards and expectations.

“CBA identified no damage to itself or any other person that would follow from publication of the material,” he said in closing.

In deciding to detail and publish its reasons for the decision, the commission seeks to provide “guidance” to others involved in its inquiry.

“The application made by CBA in respect of this witness statement does warrant a more elaborate statement of reasons and warrant publication of those reasons for the guidance of others who may seek a direction under s 6D(3),” said Hayne.

The royal commission is holding its first round of hearings from 13 to 23 March 2018 focusing on consumer lending.


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