On 18 December 2009, ASIC approved new Terms of Reference (TORs) for the Financial Ombudsman Service Limited (FOS). The new TORs apply to new complaints against FOS members received on or after 1 January 2010.

Background

All licensed financial services providers in Australia are required by subsection 912A(2)(b) of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) to be a member of an ASIC-approved external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme which can deal with complaints by retail clients against the licensee that have not been resolved by the licensee’s internal dispute resolution procedure. (This is subject to the exception that complaints against trustees of regulated superannuation funds are dealt with by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, under the Superannuation (Resolution of Complaints) Act 1993 (Cth)).

FOS is an approved EDR scheme which deals with complaints against general insurers, life insurers, insurance brokers, financial planners, stockbrokers, banks and credit unions. FOS is the successor scheme of the following separate EDR schemes:

  • the Insurance Ombudsman Service – now the General Insurance stream of FOS
  • the Financial Industry Complaints Service – now the Investments, Life Insurance and Superannuation stream of FOS
  • the Insurance Brokers Disputes Limited – now the Insurance Brokers stream of FOS
  • the Banking and Financial Ombudsman Service – now the General Banking stream of FOS, and
  • the Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre – now the Mutuals stream of FOS.

FOS previously operated under five separate sets of rules and guidance – one for each of these streams.

The new TORs

The new TORs are intended to provide a more consistent treatment of consumers and industry members than the previous sets of rules and guidance.

Some of the changes are set out in the table below.

The new TORs are on FOS’s website at www.fos.org.au.