The BCCC has published a Guidance Note on one of the requirements within the Banking Code’s COVID-19 Special Note.
The Special Note came into effect on 1 July 2020 and describes how the effects of COVID-19 may mean that Code-subscribing banks are unable to fully comply with strict timing requirements for notices and communications under the Code.
Chapter 48 (How We Handle Your Complaint) and clauses 205 and 206 of the Code provide timeframes for when banks must notify customers of the progress and outcome of their complaints. The Special Note provides for circumstances where a bank may not be able to comply with those timelines due to COVID-19 and sets conditions where failure to meet timelines may not constitute a Code breach.
Some banks have indicated that they do not foresee delays to their complaints handling processes. These banks sought clarification from the BCCC on the requirements of the Special Note.
The Guidance Note explains how the BCCC will assess compliance with the complaints handling notification requirements of the Special Note and the relevant Code obligations. The Guidance Note also recognises the concerns of some banks and outlines applicable exemptions to the requirements of the Special Note.
The Special Note came into effect on 1 July 2020 and originally applied until 1 March 2021. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission approved variations to the Code in January 2021, including an extension of the applicable time period for the COVID-19 Special Note to 1 September 2021. The Guidance Note has been updated to reflect this change.
A copy of the original version of the Guidance Note is available here.