Financial complaints ombudsman breaks down its COVID-19 flash points

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has compiled its COVID-19 complaint data from 3 March 2020 to 28 February 2021, which has revealed some trends.

Among COVID-associated complaints, travel insurance was the most complained about product type, with 3,516 complaints across a year of the pandemic, though the rate fell sharply as travel reduced.  

On the other hand, AFCA’s half-yearly data shows falls in the monthly averages for complaints about motor vehicle insurance and home contents insurance — reflecting less road traffic and police reports of reduced theft because people were at home more.  

In all, AFCA found that 15% of all complaints made were COVID-19 related for the period in question, with a total of 11,000 specific to COVID-19.

AFCA says the bulk of COVID-related complaints (65%) came through in the first six months from March last year, as consumers and firms came to grips with the outcomes of the pandemic. There was then a trend downwards as financial firms fine-tuned their responses, activities like travel reduced, and the economy steadied.  

In separate statistics for the second half of 2020, the monthly average for complaints in relation to financial difficulty fell about 35% and complaints involving the major banks were down. There was a 23% jump in the monthly average of complaints about unauthorised transactions and scams in the six months to December 31.

Overall, in 2020 AFCA received 77,739 complaints, up 5% on the number in 2019. Resolved disputes resulted in compensation and refunds totalling $294 million going to consumers and small businesses.  

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