Customer Advocate Report 2013

Complaint process

We aim to minimise complaints through our working practices and respond to any that arise quickly and effectively.However, if retail or small business customers do have a complaint they can have it heard at the Complaints Resolution Centre. If customers remain dissatisfied about the outcome they can have their complaint referred to the ANZ Customer Advocate. Wealth customers can also be referred to the Customer Advocate by their complaints teams.

The Customer Advocate reports to the Australia Division Chief Executive Officer and reviews complaints from Retail, Small Business and Wealth customers in relation to general banking issues and insurance, superannuation and investments.

The Office provides customers with a review of disputes that have not been resolved to their satisfaction. The team of highly skilled dispute resolution experts works separately from ANZ business units and complaint teams and the decision of the Customer Advocate is final within ANZ, whether she finds in favour of the customer or the Bank.

If the Customer Advocate finds Bank error, we apologise and attempt to put customers back into the position they would have been had an error not occurred. This might require changes to process or compensation.

In 2013, the Customer Advocate office completed 877 reviews related to general banking products (such as mortgages, savings accounts and credit cards) compared to 701 in 2012. 96.7 percent were resolved without escalation to external review, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or the Privacy Commissioner and 54 percent were resolved wholly or partially in favour of the customer. 91.4 percent of complex complaints were resolved within 20 working days.

The Customer Advocate office also reviewed 362 disputes relating to insurance, superannuation and investments, compared to 482 in 2012. 85.4 percent were resolved without escalation to external review.

The ANZ Customer Experience Forum is a regular meeting of senior employees chaired by the CEO, Australia Division, with the purpose of improving customer service, processes and product development. It provides an opportunity to bring issues raised by customers to senior management’s attention and implement process improvements.

Key initiatives undertaken in 2013 were:

 

Case study: Credit listing

This case study illustrates the Customer Advocate’s approach to credit listing disputes. A credit listing puts potential lenders on notice that a customer has failed to meet their contractual liabilities. A credit listing may also protect the interests of customers by reducing the likelihood of a borrower obtaining any additional debt that they cannot afford to repay. These disputes are carefully investigated and removal of credit listings is only recommended in limited circumstances, such as where an error has occurred.

A credit repair organisation wrote to the Customer Advocate claiming that their client had been incorrectly credit listed by ANZ and requesting removal of the listing. The credit repair organisation stated that their client, Mr A, had provided a guarantee for his sister’s car loan as she desperately needed a vehicle to retain her employment. Mr A claimed that he was not advised of the effect of providing a guarantee. Mr A stated that his sister had been involved in a car accident and had ‘written off’ her car, leaving a significant shortfall against the borrowed amount. He claimed that he was not contacted by ANZ or made aware of any insurance shortfall.

The Customer Advocate’s office investigated this matter and noted that ANZ had financed a vehicle for Mr A’s company (and not in the name of his sister as indicated). Mr A, as company director, had provided a guarantee for the contract and the vehicle was insured in Mr A’s name. Mr A was bankrupt at the time of entering the contract and provided incorrect name, date of birth and address details to ANZ. My office conducted company searches and also obtained a report from Mr A’s Trustee in Bankruptcy. This report indicated that the customer had obtained finance with numerous organisations under seven different spelling variations of his name and had also continued to act as a company director following his bankruptcy (in contravention of the Corporations Act) and this contravention was reported to ASIC.

The Customer Advocate’s office notified the credit repair organisation of the outcome of my investigation, advising that the Customer Advocate was satisfied that Mr A had been correctly listed and would not be recommending removal of the listing.

Case study: Mental illness and financial hardship

Mrs B held a joint ANZ Loan Account with her husband. The loan account had been repaid several years earlier and Mrs B claimed that the account should have been closed. The account was not closed and Mr B, who was suffering from mental illness, withdrew funds of approximately $35,000 from the account. Mrs B claimed that the money had been spent by her husband and she had not benefited. Due to his mental illness, Mr B had required hospital treatment and had been unable to work for many years. Mrs B was retirement age and was unable to repay the loan.

Information held showed that the loan had remained open in error. However, a review of the loan account statements indicated that both Mr and Mrs B had received the benefit of the funds drawn from the loan. After careful consideration of the customers’ financial position, it was decided that repaying the loan would place the customers in significant financial hardship. Although the Customer Advocate found that the customers were responsible for repayment of the principal funds without interest, she recommended that ANZ waive the total balance in light of the customers’ difficult circumstances.