If you are not satisfied with a lender’s response to your application for a hardship variation, you can apply to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) to resolve your dispute. It is the new free and independent external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme to deal with disputes between consumers and lenders.
AFCA replaces the three existing EDR schemes of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) and Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) so that consumers have access to a single EDR scheme.
As part of its licence requirements, your lender must be a member of AFCA.
The benefits of lodging a dispute with AFCA
- It’s free.
- It will give you an opportunity to negotiate with the lender (with the help of the scheme).
- The lender cannot start or progress legal action while your matter is being considered by AFCA. The exceptions to this include:
- to take the minimum steps necessary to preserve the lender's legal rights, or
- where legal action in defending the action has progressed beyond you lodging a defence or a defence and counterclaim
- enforcing a default judgment obtained in court.
Even with these exceptions, the lender needs to get AFCA's consent.