The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator, ensuring that Australia’s financial markets are fair and transparent, and supported by confident and informed investors and consumers.
ASIC is an independent Commonwealth Government body, set up under and in order to administer the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 (ASIC Act). It also administers, among other legislation, significant parts of the Corporations Act 2001 and the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009. Aspects of the Australian Consumer Law are mirrored in the ASIC Act, to protect consumers of financial products and services.
ASIC is generally responsible for dealing with contraventions of the unconscionable conduct or consumer protection provisions of the ASIC Act and the National Consumer Credit Protections Act, and can for example issue infringement notices which will result in financial penalties.
ASIC can pursue a variety of enforcement remedies, depending on the seriousness and consequences of the misconduct. ASIC can take enforcement action designed to punish wrongdoers, protect investors, preserve assets, correct disclosures or compensate people. It can also try to resolve matters through negotiation or issuing infringement notices. ASIC’s decision on whether to take enforcement action is based on assessing the evidence, the cost versus regulatory benefit, and the level of harm or loss.
ASIC might, in some cases, take protective action that is primarily designed to protect investors and financial consumers, rather than punish those involved in breaches of the law. Examples of these remedies are a ban on providing financial services or engaging in credit activities; revocation, suspension or variation of conditions of a licence; and public warning notices.
In cases where a consumer has a problem with their financial services provider, they should first make a complaint directly to the provider. If the complaint cannot be resolved that way, the consumer can take the complaint to an external dispute resolution scheme. They can also make a complaint directly to ASIC.
Most financial services businesses licensed by ASIC must belong to an independent complaints scheme. There are three independent complaints schemes that cover different areas of the financial services industry:
- Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)
- Credit Ombudsman Service Ltd (COSL)
- Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.
The role of independent complaints schemes is to resolve complaints that cannot be settled directly between the consumer and the business. A business must accept the final decision of the complaints scheme if the consumer does. If the consumer does not agree with the decision, they can take the matter to court.
See ASIC website for more information.