Customer advocates welcome ‘mega-ombudsman’ plan

Consumer groups have backed calls for a single ombudsman to replace the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO).
The proposal is contained in the interim report of the Ramsey review into the financial system’s external dispute resolution and complaints framework, and has also been welcomed by FOS.
The interim report says a single entity would be simpler and reduce overlap, and Chief Ombudsman Shane Tregillis agrees the proposals would reduce complexity for consumers.
“We welcome the interim report and support its proposals designed to strengthen current arrangements based on fairness, openness, simplicity and adaptability as core features,” FOS said.
The Consumer Action Law Centre, the Financial Rights Legal Centre and Financial Counselling Australia all back the proposal.
Consumer Action Law Centre CEO Gerard Brody says ombudsman schemes are free, independent and a quick way to resolve problems, but the current set-up is confusing.
“Australians are faced with the confusing situation where their complaint could be handled by FOS or the CIO,” he said.
“Merging these schemes is a common-sense move that can help Australians get justice.”
The interim report also recommends replacing the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal with an industry ombudsman scheme.
“People with superannuation disputes should have access to the benefits of an ombudsman scheme,” Financial Rights Legal Centre Acting Co-ordinator Kat Lane said.
“An ombudsman service is free, flexible and fast compared with the stilted, slow and inflexible Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.”
Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer says responses to the report’s recommendations have been “overwhelmingly positive”.
“I am particularly heartened by the response from consumer groups that deal directly with people who have experienced long-running disputes with banks and institutions that offer financial products,” she said.