Is Govt rushing AFCA implementation?

The Federal Government has again been admonished for appearing to rush the establishment of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), with the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) urging that its start-date be wound back by at least six months.

In a submission to Treasury responding to the proposals put forward by the Government-appointed AFCA team, the ASFA has made clear that it believes the process is being rushed and that there has been too little time given to appropriate consultation.

“…we remain concerned that the speed with which the proposed reforms are being implemented, and the fragmented approach taken to the consultation process, will have an adverse impact on the quality of the outcome,” the ASFA submission said.

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“We note that the two-week period allowed to respond to the consultation paper has not allowed stakeholders to fully consider the questions posed, and this will impact the quality of the submissions provided,” it said.

“In the absence of final legislation to establish the new dispute resolution regime, and taking into account the significant amount of work that will be required to implement the new arrangements, ASFA remains of the view that a commencement date of 1 July 2018 is unrealistic. We consider that a measured commencement date would be no earlier than 1 January 2019.”

The ASFA submission said the organisation believed the later start date would more appropriately reflect the need to allow adequate time for passage of the legislation, authorisation of a company to operate the AFCA scheme, development and finalisation of the terms of reference for the AFCA scheme and the ASIC regulatory requirements, and all necessary establishment activities.

The submission then went on discuss complexity surrounding the transition from the statute-based Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) to the proposed new ombudsman-based AFCA and the unfinished nature of the legislative arrangements.

“The ability to withdraw a complaint where the SCT has not yet made a final determination and commence it anew with AFCA raises complex issues and will involve potentially considerable duplication of effort and cost, as well as the prospect of ‘forum shopping’,” the submission said.

“ASFA has significant reservations regarding this proposal and is of the view it should apply only to those complaints that the SCT has received but not yet commenced to consider.”

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