Internal Dispute Resolution Policy
Internal Dispute Resolution Policy
Avant Doctors’ Finance Pty Ltd (ACN 637 769 361) (Avant Financial Services) and its related entities.
Any reference in this document to “us”, “our” or “we” is a reference to Avant Financial Services and its related entities.
This Policy been prepared in accordance with the requirements of ASIC Regulatory Guide 271 – Internal dispute resolution (RG 271).
Our aim in developing our Internal IDR Policy is to ensure that our organisational culture welcomes feedback and values complaints as an opportunity to improve our products and services. We strive to produce beneficial outcomes for both our clients and our business. More specifically, we aim to:
• resolve complaints as quickly as possible directly with our clients;
• promote a relationship of trust between us and our clients;
• improve client confidence and satisfaction;
• enhance our understanding of the key drivers for complaints and ensure we use complaints as an opportunity to identify emerging issues that will inform product and service delivery improvements and identify any systemic issues that we need to resolve proactively; and
• reduce the number of complaints that are lodged with Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
2. Definition of Complaint
Our definition of ‘complaint’ is taken from AS/NZS 10002-2014:
An expression of dissatisfaction made to or about an organization, related to its products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint, where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.
There are a number of key components to this definition.
1. A ‘complaint’ will include an ‘expression of dissatisfaction’ that is both made to us directly, or is made using any of the social media channels that we control. As such, we will be proactive in monitoring our social media channels to ensure that we capture all complaints.
2. A complaint can be made about any of our products, services, staff or how we have handled a complaint. But the definition will not include complaints about:
(a) employment-related complaints raised by internal staff; and
(b) comments made about our business where a response is not expected
(c) comments made about our business where a response is not expected such as reports intended solely to bring a matter to our attention or feedback in surveys.
3. A ‘complaint’ includes complaints about a matter that is already being remediated, including about the subject of an existing remediation program or about the remediation program itself (e.g. delays, lack of communication).
This means we take a proactive approach to identifying complaints and assisting clients who might need additional assistance.
A client is not required to expressly state the word ‘complaint’ or ‘dispute’, or put their complaint in writing in order to trigger our obligation to deal with a matter in accordance with our IDR Procedures.
Where the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 and the National Consumer Credit Protection Regulations 2010 refer to a ‘dispute’, we will treat that term as having the same meaning as ‘complaint’ and this IDR Procedure will apply.
3. Acknowledging Complaints
We operate a multi-tier IDR process which includes front-line staff as the initial point of contact who may consider and resolve the complaint within a short timeframe. If the complaint cannot be resolved by front-line staff at the time of initial contact by the client, the complaint must be immediately forwarded or communicated to the Head of Risk & Compliance, to conduct a further review and investigation.
The initial recipient of the complaint must acknowledge receipt of the complaint within 24 hours (or one business day) of receiving it, or as soon as practicable.
Acknowledgment of a complaint may be verbally or in writing (email, post or social media channels). When determining the appropriate method of communication, we will take into account the method used by the client to lodge their complaint and any preferences they may have expressed about communication methods by the client.
4. Recording the complaint and allocating a unique identifier
All complaints must be recorded in our complaint register and allocated a unique identifier for reporting and tracking purposes. This applies to all complaints, no matter how minor or how quickly the complaint is resolved.
The person responsible for acknowledging the complaint must also record the complaint in the Complaints register, which is maintained by Head of Risk & Compliance.
5. Investigating complaints
Complaints will be reviewed carefully and promptly. All complaints will be reviewed using the following principles.
Complaint review principles
• Complaints must be dealt with fairly and as promptly as possible. We aim to meet or outperform the prescribed maximum IDR timeframes. We will only exceed the maximum time frames if the complaint is complex, or there are circumstances beyond our control.
• All complaints received must be immediately assessed and prioritised according to the urgency and severity of the issues raised. Clients experiencing domestic or financial abuse, a serious or terminal illness or where a delay in addressing the complaint could adversely affect the client’s basic living conditions will be prioritised.
• Complaints involving hardship notices or requests to postpone enforcement proceedings will be treated as urgent.
• Each complaint will be managed in an equitable manner, including those lodged by clients who display unreasonable or challenging behaviour.
• We will avoid requirements that restrict clients’ access to the IDR process (eg. complaints do not need to be made in writing or made directly to our complaints team).
• We will understand the background to the complaint.
• We will access our available materials including our files, documents and other records as needed.
• We will interview staff, representatives (including any credit representatives), contractors and agents as needed.
We will attempt to conduct negotiations with clients and explore resolution options (as detailed in this procedure) as a matter of priority.
6. Responding to clients – ‘IDR Response’
Once we have assessed a complaint, (unless section 8 applies) we will provide the client with an ‘IDR response’, in writing, informing the client of:
(a) the final outcome of their complaint at IDR (either confirmation how we will fully resolve the complaint or why we have rejected or partially rejected the complaint);
(b) the client’s right to take the complaint to AFCA if they are not satisfied with our IDR response; and
(c) the contact details for AFCA.
If we reject or partially reject the complaint, the IDR response must clearly set out the reasons for the decision by:
(a) clearly identifying and addressing the issues raised in the complaint to show that we have understood the complaint;
(b) setting out our findings on any material questions of fact and referring to the information that supports those findings; and
(c) providing enough detail for the client to understand why we have made the decision we have made so they are fully informed when deciding whether to escalate the matter to AFCA or another forum.
7. Complaints resolved within 5 business days
We do not need to provide an IDR response to a client if we close the complaint by the end of the fifth business day after receipt if we have:
(a) resolved the complaint to the client’s satisfaction; or
(b) given the client an explanation and/or apology in situations where we can take no further action to reasonably address the complaint.
When determining whether a complaint has been resolved to a client’s satisfaction, we must consider whether:
(a) the client has confirmed (verbally or in writing) that they are satisfied with the action(s) we have taken in response to the complaint and do not wish to take the matter further; or
(b) it is reasonable for us to form the view that the complaint has been resolved to the client’s satisfaction.
But, we must still provide a written IDR response to the client even where the complaint is closed by the end of the fifth business day, if:
(c) the client requests a written response; or
(d) the complaint is about hardship;
Note: even if resolved within 5 business days, the complaint and our response must still be included in our complaint register to maintain accurate records
8. Response time frames
We must generally provide an IDR response to a client no later than 30 calendar days after receiving the complaint. However, for some credit-related complaints a different timeframe applies. The table below sets out the relevant time frames.
9. Complaints with respect to default notices
The following are examples of when we will consider that a complaint involves a default notice if the client:
(a) alleges that the default notice was not served;
(b) disputes the amount specified in the default notice or whether the default was rectified; or
(c) has a dispute about our communications leading up to the issue of the default notice.
An IDR response for credit-related complaints involving default notices must be provided no later than 21 calendar days after receiving the complaint. We will refrain from commencing or continuing with legal proceedings or any other enforcement action (i.e. debt collection activity) against the client during the IDR process. Unless the statute of limitations is about to expire, this applies:
(a) while the complaint is being handled at IDR (during the 21 calendar days); and
(b) for a reasonable time thereafter.
Allowing a ‘reasonable time thereafter’ will ensure that the client has the opportunity to lodge their complaint with AFCA if the complaint cannot be resolved to their satisfaction through IDR. Usually this time frame will be at least 14 calendar days after sending the IDR response.
10. Hardship Notices or Requests to Postpone Enforcement Proceedings
We will treat as urgent complaints involving hardship notices or requests to postpone enforcement proceedings.
If a complaint is about a hardship notice or request to postpone enforcement proceedings for a regulated product, the following maximum IDR timeframes apply:
(a) 21 calendar days to consider and determine whether to agree to:
(i) a change in the terms of the credit contract or lease for hardship (under s72 and 177B of the National Credit Code); or
(ii) the request to postpone enforcement proceedings (under s94 and 179H of the National Credit Code);
(b) if we require further information about a hardship notice, we have the additional time allowed for credit contracts or leases entered into on or after 1 March 2013 (under s72 and 177B of the National Credit Code). This is up to:
(i) 28 calendar days from the date the information is requested, but not received; or
(ii) 21 calendar days from when they consider they have received the information requested.
The AFCA Rules may allow AFCA a discretion to vary timeframes that apply to complaints that are referred back to financial firms for consideration. This may include complaints when no agreement is reached within the maximum IDR timeframes for complaints about hardship notices or requests to postpone enforcement proceedings.
If we reach an agreement about a hardship notice or postponement of enforcement proceedings, we have a further 30 calendar days to confirm in writing:
(a) the terms of change to the credit contract or lease (see s73 or 177C of the National Credit Code); or
(b) the conditions of postponement of enforcement proceedings (see s95 or 179J of the National Credit Code).
We must inform the client of their right to complain to AFCA and provide AFCA’s contact details at certain points during the process of dealing with a hardship notice and/or request to postpone enforcement proceedings. This information must be provided when we
(a) tell the client in writing that we have not agreed to change the terms of their credit contract or lease, or that we do not agree to negotiate a postponement of enforcement proceedings; and
(b) if a change to the contract or lease terms or postponement has been agreed to, notify the client in writing of the terms of the variation or conditions of the postponement. We must send this written notice within 30 calendar days of the agreement being reached.
11. Complaint Management Delays
Although we aim to meet or outperform the maximum IDR timeframes, there are many variables that can affect complaint response times. Accordingly, we are not required to provide a client with an IDR response within the relevant maximum IDR timeframe if:
(a) there is no reasonable opportunity to provide the IDR response within the relevant maximum IDR timeframe because:
(i) resolution of the individual complaint is particularly complex (for eg: an individual complaint is about a transaction or event that occurred more than six years ago and requires reconstruction of account information); and/or
(ii) circumstances beyond our control are causing complaint management delays (for eg: information must be obtained from third parties (this excludes our authorised representatives)).
(b) before the relevant maximum IDR timeframe expires, we give the client an ‘IDR delay notification’ that informs the client about:
(i) the reasons for the delay;
(ii) their right to complain to AFCA if they are dissatisfied; and
(iii) the contact details for AFCA.
12. Complaint remedies
We are flexible with respect to the solutions and remedies that we will offer to clients to resolve complaints. Possible solutions and remedies may include one or more of the following:
(a) an explanation of the circumstances giving rise to the complaint;
(b) an apology;
(c) provision of assistance and support;
(d) a refund or waiver of a fee or charge;
(e) a goodwill payment;
(f) a payment of compensation;
(g) a waiver of a debt;
(h) correcting incorrect or out-of-date records;
(i) changing the terms of a contract;
(j) ceasing legal or other action that may cause detriment; and
(k) undertaking to set in place improvements to systems, procedures or products
13. Recording information about complaints
We will record information relating to all complaints. All complaints must be recorded in our complaint register and allocated a unique identifier for reporting and tracking purposes. The complaints register is to be tabled at every Risk Management & Professional Standards Committee (RMPSC) meeting. The Head of Risk & Compliance is responsible for regular reporting of compliance activities and complaints to the RMPSC. The RMPSC has responsibility for monitoring compliance with this policy.
We will keep this data in a form which will enable us to analyse our complaint data, including the complaint type, subject or outcome of complaints or the timeliness of a response.
We will also lodge our IDR data with ASIC as required by ASIC Corporations (Internal Dispute Resolution Data Reporting) Instrument 2022/205.
14. Data collection, analysis and internal reporting
It is important that we analyse complaint data regularly so that we can:
(a) monitor the performance of our IDR process; and
(b) identify possible systemic issues or trends.
To monitor the performance of our IDR process, we will collect and analyse the following items of data:
• number of complaints received;
• number of complaints closed;
• nature of complaints (e.g. product and problem);
• time taken to acknowledge complaints;
• time taken to resolve or finalise complaints;
• complaint outcomes, including:
– number of complaints resolved;
– number of complaints unresolved;
– number of complaints abandoned/withdrawn; and
details of amounts paid to clients to resolve complaints;
• possible systemic issues identified; and
• number of complaints escalated to AFCA.
15. Identifying and recording systemic issues
The RMPSC will analyse complaint data sets to identify and recommend resolutions of systemic issues to the Board. A systemic issue is a matter that affects, or has the potential to affect, more than one client. The Chair of the RMPSC is responsible for regular reporting of RMPSC activities to the Board. The Board is responsible for approving remediation activities for any systemic issues.
Review and remediation will be undertaken when a systemic issue has been identified as a result of the decisions, omissions or behaviour of a representative, and affected clients may have suffered a loss or detriment, either monetary or non-monetary. We will proactively seek out clients who have potentially been affected by the misconduct or other compliance failure and seek to remediate them.
ASIC’s RG 277 sets out ASIC’s expectations in relation to review and remediation for ACL holders.
As a Credit Licensee, we understand that we have an obligation to ensure our credit activities are provided efficiently, honestly and fairly. We take responsibility for the consequences of our actions if things go wrong when credit activities are provided and clients suffer loss or detriment. This includes remediating clients if they have suffered as a result of misconduct or other compliance failures by us.
The scope of the review and remediation determined must satisfy us to a reasonable level of certainty that it properly captures all potentially affected clients. We will articulate and record how we determine the clients to be reviewed and potentially remediated.
16. Resourcing & Training
Our IDR process will be adequately resourced so that it operates fairly, effectively and efficiently and responds to complaints within the timeframes required. This includes resourcing the IDR function to deal with intermittent spikes in complaint volumes. The Head of Risk & Compliance has day to day responsibility to implement this policy.
We will ensure that all staff who deal with clients have the adequate knowledge, skills and attributes to effectively perform their roles including recognising and dealing with complaints. We achieve by providing targeted induction and ongoing training to staff who both deal with clients and handle complaints.
17. Ongoing Review and Improvement
We will monitor and review the performance of our IDR process, including monitoring of complaint metrics and ongoing quality assurance including monitoring that:
(a) complaints are being recorded;
(b) telephone contact and correspondence with clients is clear;
(c) complaint outcomes are fair; and
(d) clients are being provided with their escalation options, including AFCA.