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What made people the most angry
THE massive impact of the pandemic on Australians and their finances is graphically captured in the fact that 17.000 complaints were made to the Ombudsman.
The figures have just been released by the Australian Financial Complaints Authority after the World Health Organisation declared an end to the global health emergency.
Consumers file thousands of complaints about the impact of the pandemic on their banking, insurance and other financial services.
And they were successful in some cases, receiving compensation or refunds totalling $21.6M as a result.
The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 12, 2022. Three years later, it declared the “global emergency” phase of the pandemic over on May 6 this year. 
AFCA’s data shows that during the three years. the Ombudsman service registered 17,403 COVID-related complaints about financial products or services. That was seven per cent of all the complaints AFCA received over that period.
Some 4368 COVID-related disputes – or one in four – involved the way a firm responded to a customer’s financial difficulty.
AFCA’s Chief Ombudsman and Chief Executive Officer David Locke said the lockdowns and the impact on incomes meant the pandemic was a difficult time financially for many people but he was grateful complaint numbers were not even higher.
“While not seeking to downplay what people went through – every complaint matters – we received far fewer COVID-related complaints than we thought might arise from the pandemic,” Mr Locke said.
“Banks, for example, were generally quick to respond, providing emergency support as they handled an unprecedented volume of requests for repayment deferrals.
“It shows what’s possible when firms and consumers talk to each other. We hope financial firms have a similar mindset as we face new challenges amid rising interest rates and cost of living pressures.”
Among the COVID-related disputes, travel insurance was the most complained about product, with 3859 complaints.
These disputes were largely about denied or delayed insurance claims after travel plans were disrupted by pandemic lockdowns.
There were 1427 COVID-related complaints regarding superannuation, after the Federal Government decided to allow people to apply for the early release of up to $10,000 in super if they were struggling during lockdowns.
Small businesses accounted for nine per cent of COVID-related complaints, though they usually represent about five per cent of all AFCA complaints. Of the 1594 small business complaints, 781 were related to business loans, and 360 were about business interruption insurance.
AFCA has resolved 975 of all COVID-related complaints so far – in the vast majority of cases by helping complainants and financial firms reach agreement. Overall, 795 of cases have been resolved by agreement or in favor of the complainant.
At A Glance: Complaints - Top Five by products
Travel insurance 3859.
Credit cards 2703.
Home loans 2254..
Personal loans 1629.
Superannuation 1134
Complaints – Top Five by issue
Failure to respond to a request for assistance 2404.
Denial of insurance claim due to exclusion or condition 1463
Denial of insurance claim 1454.
Delay in insurance claim handling 1286..
Service quality 1162
Complaints – by product line
Credit 8462 (48% of COVID-related complaints).
General insurance 5236 (30%).
Superannuation 1427 (8%).
Deposit taking 1050 (6%).
Payment systems 668 (4%).
Investments 438 (3%)
Life insurance 154 (0.9%).


Michael Walls
0407 783 413

Access News is a print and digital media publisher established over 15 years and based in Western Sydney, Australia. Our newspaper titles include the flagship publication, Western Sydney Express, which is a trusted source of information and for hundreds of thousands of decision makers, businesspeople and residents looking for insights into the people, projects, opportunities and networks that shape Australia's fastest growing region - Greater Western Sydney.