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Disputes Dip As Prevention Measures Bite, Reports Banking Scheme

Disputes with banks fell in the last financial year as prevention efforts began to take effect, according to the Banking Ombudsman Scheme’s latest annual report.

A high number of people continue to contact the Banking Ombudsman Scheme, although fewer complaints about banks escalated into a dispute in the last financial year. The scheme has maintained high customer satisfaction (83 per cent) and delivered faster resolution of cases.

The scheme received 4,582 cases in the 12 months to 30 June 2020, a drop of 4.5 per cent on the previous year. The biggest change in case volumes came from disputes, with only 144 received, a decrease of 21 per cent on last year’s volumes.

Banking Ombudsman Nicola Sladden said prevention measures had contributed to the fall, as had a greater emphasis on early guidance and assistance. The scheme has collaborated with others more to build financial capability and promote high standards of conduct and customer care.

“Lending-related complaints continued to dominate our work, followed by bank accounts and payment systems, although one new addition was complaints relating to COVID-19. In all, we received 225 such cases, most of them about how banks responded to customers’ financial hardship.”

Ms Sladden said facilitated outcomes continued to account for more than half of all dispute outcomes, which she attributed to a greater willingness on the part of banks to resolve complaints.

Payments to customers for the year topped $1 million, which was up on the previous year’s figure. Nine disputes resulted in compensation of more than $30,000, most of which related to fraud and scams.

The annual report details successes throughout the year, including setting up an industry-wide complaints dashboard and improved stakeholder engagement.

A five-yearly independent review during the year scored the scheme highly on quality and output. The review found the scheme operates with integrity and professionalism, and to be highly effective.

Ms Sladden said the scheme was continuing to focus on providing actionable insights to banks based on analysis of its caseload, along with informative material for consumers.

“In these uncertain times, a dispute resolution scheme like ours has never been more important, particularly since we can offer faster, more flexible results than would be possible through the courts.”

The summary annual report can be read here.

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