Howard Govt veteran Helen Coonan will chair authority tackling SME financial complaints

The Federal Government will appoint former senator Helen Coonan as the inaugural chair of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA), established to provide small businesses and consumers with access to a free, fast and binding dispute resolution service for financial complaints.

[Related: New Financial Complaints Authority will improve small businesses access to justice]

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, Kelly O’Dwyer said Coonan’s background makes her “uniquely qualified” to Chair the AFCA.

“Helen Coonan will bring a wealth of expertise and experience to her position as AFCA Chair,” Minister O’Dwyer said.

“She is a distinguished former Cabinet Minister in the Howard Government, and as the then Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, she demonstrated deep knowledge and understanding of the financial services sector and the issues faced by consumers of financial products and services.”

“She 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.”

Under the new dispute resolution framework, the Minister is 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,” Minister O’Dwyer concluded.

AFCA will start receiving disputes from no later than 1 November 2018. To achieve a smooth transition, the Government is seeking a proposal for a not-for-profit company to operate the AFCA scheme to be lodged with Treasury by 15 March 2018.