Text version: How to complain
This booklet explains how to resolve problems with financial
products and services.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC)
regulates financial advice and financial products, including
ASIC's MoneySmart website is designed to help you make smart
choices about your personal finances. It offers calculators and
tips to give you fast answers to your money questions.
Visit moneysmart.gov.au or call ASIC on 1300 300
About this booklet
If you are having a problem with a financial product or service,
including financial advice, superannuation, investments, insurance,
credit cards, loans or your bank accounts, this guide can help you
to take steps to resolve your problem.
Smart tip: There are three steps you can take to resolve your
- Contact the business to discuss your complaint.
- If you're not satisfied, make a formal written complaint to the
- If you're still not satisfied, take your complaint to an
independent complaints scheme (also known as an external dispute
Step 1: Contact the business about your
The first step you should take to resolve a complaint is to
contact the business that holds your account or sold you the
product or service, and explain the problem. You can do this by
phone, in person, or in writing.
Before you contact the business
Know the outcome you want
You might want an apology, an explanation, a contract cancelled,
or compensation for a loss you have suffered. Whatever it is, be
clear about what you would like done.
Have the details ready
Make sure you are organised, and have your account, policy or
customer reference number ready. This will save time and make it
easier for the business to deal with your complaint.
When you contact the business
If you can, speak to the person you first dealt with, as they
should be most familiar with your details. Stay calm and explain
your problem clearly and logically.
Keep a record
Keep a record of your discussion. Include details like the date,
who you spoke to, and what was discussed. You might need to refer
to this later if the matter is not resolved. If the complaint is
resolved you should ask the business to confirm this for you in
What if you are not satisfied?
If you're not satisfied with the answer from the business, or if
the problem can't be sorted out, you can make a formal
Step 2: Make a
formal complaint to the business
Internal dispute resolution (IDR)
To make a formal complaint, ask for details of the business'
complaints procedure or look for it on their website. This should
explain who to contact and how your complaint will be handled.
Make your complaint
Formal complaints can be made in writing - by letter or email -
over the phone, or in person. The business should supply details of
the different ways you can make a complaint. For example, they may
have an online form to fill out, or they may provide a phone
number, email or postal address.
Keep records of everything
Keep copies of anything you send or receive in writing, and keep
a record of any phone calls you make, who you spoke to, and what
Usually a business must respond, and attempt to resolve your
complaint, within 45 days. However, if your complaint is about a
credit product and you are in financial hardship, the business
needs to get back to you within 21 days. For superannuation
complaints, the fund must respond to you within 90 days.
You can ask the business when they expect to be able to respond
to your complaint. If they don't respond within that time, follow
up with a phone call.
Important: Financial hardship
If you're struggling to pay your loans or credit cards, contact
your credit provider as soon as possible to negotiate your
repayments. A financial counsellor can give you free, confidential
help with this if you need it (see Where to get
help with complaints).
Case study: Alison's credit card fees
Alison was approved for a credit card that was advertised as
having no service fees and a competitive interest rate.
After 6 months, the bank started charging her a monthly
service fee. Alison then called the bank to discuss the issue.
Her bank told her that they only waive service fees if she
repays the full balance every month, and one month Alison hadn't
paid the full balance. Alison felt this wasn't made clear, so
she emailed a formal complaint to her bank.
Her bank rejected her complaint, so Alison decided to take her
complaint to an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme. She told
them that she relied on the information in the bank's newspaper ad
in her decision to get the credit card, and wanted her service fees
refunded and not charged again.
The EDR scheme reviewed her case and said that the bank should
refund the fees and not charge the fee for another 2 months so
Alison could get a new credit card. The EDR scheme also said that
the bank should make the same offer to anyone else who took out a
new card after the advertisement first appeared.
Example of a written complaint
Below are tips on how to write a complaint email or letter. If
your complaint does not get resolved after you send a written
complaint, you should take your issue to an independent complaints
scheme, which is explained in Step 3.
When writing a complaint email or letter, follow this
- Put 'complaint' in the subject line of your email or at the
top of your letter so the business knows it's important.
- Provide your account or policy number.
- Attach copies of all relevant documentation.
- Set out the problem clearly and provide the
names of the people you dealt with and the
- Clearly state the outcome you want.
- End your email with something that shows you expect a reply and
provide your contact details.
Sample complaint email
To: <email address>
Subject: Complaint regarding account number:
I am writing to complain about the charges on my savings account
for April. I phoned your call centre on 1 June and spoke to Sally,
who recorded the conversation and suggested I put my complaint in
I attach a copy of my monthly statement that shows that I was
charged twice for getting cash out of an ATM on George Street,
Sydney, on 15 April. I have highlighted the relevant section and
the reference for the transaction on my statement is
I am sure that this must be an error and I would like you to
credit my account for (the amount of the charge) ______.
I look forward to your response. I can be contacted on
04xx-xxx-xxx or by email at xxxxxx.
Step 3: Take
your issue to an independent complaints scheme
External dispute resolution (EDR)
Most financial services businesses and superannuation funds must
be a member of an independent complaints scheme, or EDR scheme that
you can go to if:
- you are not happy with the business' answer to your
- the business makes you an offer that you're not satisfied
- the business does not respond to your complaint within a
reasonable time (outlined in Step 2).
Complaints schemes are free and independent
Independent complaints schemes resolve complaints that cannot be
settled between you and the business.
A complaints scheme is a free service that is independent of
both you and the business and is a simpler alternative to resolving
disputes in court.
The complaints scheme does not take sides when dealing with a
complaint, but will work with you and the business to help resolve
it. If an agreement can't be reached, the complaints scheme will
make a final decision. If you accept this decision, then the
business is bound by it.
Can a complaints scheme assist you?
A complaints scheme will only deal with your complaint if you
have raised the matter with the business first and given them the
chance to put things right.
An EDR scheme can deal with most complaints. However, if the
value of your complaint is higher than the amount the scheme can
deal with, or if your complaint is too old, they may not be able to
help you. Contact the scheme (details below) to find out if
they can deal with your complaint.
Lodging complaints from 1 November 2018
Australian Financial Complaints Authority
On 1 November 2018, a single external dispute resolution scheme,
the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), replaced the
Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), the Credit and Investments
Ombudsman (CIO) and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
(SCT). The old schemes will continue to deal with complaints
received before this date.
afca.org.au or phone
1800 931 678
Complaining to ASIC
If you believe a business, organisation or person has committed
an offence or engaged in misconduct, and you think ASIC should
investigate, then you can lodge a complaint. For more information,
go to asic.gov.au/complain.
However, ASIC does not generally act for individuals and can only
take action if the matter is within its areas of responsibility and
is in the wider public interest.
Complaints about ASIC
If you have dealt with ASIC and are not happy with any aspect of
the process, you can complain.
You can lodge a complaint online through ASIC's complaint
process at asic.gov.au, by calling 1300 740
895, or by writing to us at:
The Complaints Officer
GPO Box 9827
Sydney NSW 2001
DX 653 Sydney
Where to get help
Financial counsellors provide a free and independent service.
They can give you guidance about your complaint.
Visit Financial Counselling
Australia's website, phone the National Debt Helpline on
1800 007 007 (9am-5pm), or see our page on
how to find a financial
counsellor near you.
Community legal centres
Community legal centres can also give you advice about your
Visit naclc.org.au or call 02
Translation services can arrange an interpreter or translator
Government departments, external dispute resolution (EDR)
schemes and many other organisations are registered with the
Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS), who can provide this
service at no cost to you. Visit tisnational.gov.au or
call 13 14 50
National Relay Service
The National Relay Service assists people who are deaf or have a
hearing or speech impairment.
Visit relayservice.gov.au or call
13 36 77
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Contact ASIC if you're not sure who to speak to about your
Visit moneysmart.gov.au or call ASIC on 1300 300
ASIC's MoneySmart website has calculators, tools and tips to
help you with:
Last updated: 08 Nov 2018