The federal government will appoint former Howard government cabinet minister Helen Coonan as the inaugural chair of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer said Coonan’s experience in the law, business, financial services and dispute resolution, as well as her knowledge and understanding of the financial services sector and issues faced by consumers of financial products and services, qualified her to assume the role.
Coonan also has experience on the boards of a range of private and public organisations, including most recently positions on the boards of Place Management NSW (formerly Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority) and Snowy Hydro Limited.
AFCA will provide consumers and small businesses with access to a free and binding dispute resolution service for financial complaints.
It will become SMSF members’ primary avenue of recourse in the event of a collapse if they used an adviser and it replaces the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Under the dispute resolution framework, O’Dwyer will be able to appoint a minority of the AFCA board within six months of authorising a not-for-profit company to operate the AFCA scheme.
“Following the authorisation of AFCA, I intend to make other appointments to the AFCA board, including consumer and industry specialists,” she said.
She added an application for authorisation was being sought by no later than 15 March 2018.
AFCA would begin receiving disputes no later than 1 November 2018.