A Horsham accountant is urging Wimmera residents to contact their financial institution as their initial course of action, as dozens have made complaints to a new body.
The Australia Financial Complaints Authority released its first six month report on Monday.
It revealed Horsham, Warracknabeal, Stawell, Ararat, Edenhope and Nhill residents had filed 38 complaints against financial institutions, 20 of which had been resolved and 12 of these in favour of the complainant.
The banking and finance sectors were the product lines most commonly complained about to AFCA with 47 per cent of all Wimmera complaints, followed by general insurance with 39 per cent.
The most complained about financial products were:
- Home building insurance
- Credit cards
- Personal transaction accounts
- Personal loans
- Home loans
An AFCA spokeswoman said resolutions could include financial payouts or simply apologies from the financial institution.
Nationwide, AFCA received 35,000 complaints in its first six months of operation, 61 per cent of them relating to the conduct of banks, followed by insurers and credit providers.
The organisation said it had resolved 60 per cent of complaints, 74 per cent of them in favor of the complainant or by agreement, recovering $83 million for complainants in the process.
AFCA was set up in November aimed at rebuilding customer trust in Australian financial services in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission, which exposed serious misconduct in the sector.
Brian Watts, director of Horsham's Watts Price accounting, said his recent interactions with Horsham's banks suggested they were actively working to increase consumer trust. He noted 38 complaints was "very few" as a proportion of the nationwide total.
"No doubt some residents do have unpleasant experiences with their financial institutions, but I think rural banks are generally going to outperform city ones," he said.
"In a smaller community, people have personal relationships with their lenders and managers and my experience in Horsham is banks provide excellent service."
Mr Watts said he knew of some Wimmera banks conducting customer forums to get positive and negative feedback on their customer service.
"Personally I have been refunded money by a bank after it detected I had been overcharged. That may have been coincidental but it's possible they have shone a light on their practices and found mistakes to correct," he said.
Mr Watts recommended residents discuss matters with senior members of their bank branch before taking their complaints to AFCA.
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