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BFCSA: Banking royal commission: Fears customers are being shut out from having their say

Posted by on in ROYAL COMMISSION URGENT
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Banking royal commission: Fears customers are being shut out from having their say

ABC News13 January 2018

Stephanie Chalmer

 

It has been six weeks since the financial services royal commission was announced, but victims of bank misconduct remain in limbo about when, how, and even if they can have their voices heard.

While the major banks and some advocacy groups were invited to prepare submissions weeks ago, members of the public still have no way to lodge their complaints.

The commission's website provides no way for the public to do so — just a general contact email and mailing list.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has launched its own website to accept public submissions.

"We want the commission to hear everyday stories from everyday people, who in some instances have had their lives destroyed," said ACTU president Ged Kearney.

Fresh in the minds of the unions is the royal commission into their own movement, which wrapped up just over two years ago.

The ACTU said a fully-staffed call centre was operational within two weeks of that inquiry being established.

"This commission seems to be kept very tight, and we're getting very suspicious that maybe the Government and maybe our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull does not really want this commission to open a portal into the bad behaviour of the banks," Ms Kearney said

Each royal commission is different, with its own timeline and terms of reference.

But Jan Saddler, a class actions expert at Shine Lawyers, said it was usual practice for a commission to call for public submissions.

"It seems to me that if you're going to undertake an inquiry as to banking practices, financial services practices in Australia, then those people who use those services must be heard," she said.

Needs to be a 'proper job' at 'whatever cost': senator

When announcing the Royal Commission, the Prime Minister promised a "comprehensive inquiry", but also emphasised the tight timeline — with a final report due in February 2019.

Senator Barry O'Sullivan, one of the Nationals behind the backbench push for an inquiry, said he had faith in commissioner Kenneth Hayne but it could not be a rush job.

"Whatever time it takes and whatever cost and resources it requires, ought to be given to it to do a proper job, otherwise, we might as well pack the stall up and not start in the first instance," he said.

Consumer Action Law Centre chief executive Gerard Brody said there were limits to what could be done in a year.

"I think it's fair to say that it's not going to be possible for every Australian who's had a complaint against a bank or insurance company to have their say in a royal commission that was going to last 12 months," he said.

The Attorney-General's office said the commission was in "the early stages of establishment" and the issue of submissions from private individuals was a matter for the commissioner.

But AM could not get any more answers, because there was no-one yet at the commission responsible for answering media inquiries.

Ms Kearney said the commission must pick up its pace.

"The shorter the timeline, the smaller amount of evidence that can be heard and the less deliberations there are," she said.

While the banks are busy preparing their submissions, Senator O'Sullivan said customers who have been ripped off must also be heard.

 

"Who best serve to share the experience or the impact of bad cultural behaviour other than the person on the other end of the behaviour," he said.

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