Commonwealth Bank appoints new customer advocates

Source: The Commonwealth Bank

The Commonwealth Bank today announced further progress in its Open Advice Review program, with the appointment of three plaintiff law firms as Independent Customer Advocates and an expansion of customer contact.

Since the Commonwealth Bank announced the Open Advice Review program in July, it has made several key appointments. These include:

• An Independent Review Panel, chaired by retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, the Hon Ian Callinan AC, and also comprising retired Justice of the Queensland Court of Appeal, the Hon Geoffrey Davies AO, as Deputy Chairman, and retired Justice of the Federal Court and the Victorian Court of Appeal, the Hon Julie Dodds-Streeton QC, as panellist;
• A consultant expert advisor to the program: Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia;
• An independent expert: Promontory Financial Group to review the process of the program and provide transparency by periodically reporting the outcomes of the program publicly; and
• An independent forensic expert: McGrathNicol.

Today, the Commonwealth Bank announced additional independent appointments. Three law firms - Maurice Blackburn, Shine Lawyers and Slater and Gordon - have been appointed as Independent Customer Advocates to support individual customers through the program. The services of these firms as Independent Customer Advocates will be available at no cost to customers.

Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth Bank, Mr Ian Narev said the appointments are designed to ensure customers have access to independent support through the Open Advice Review program, and have independent advocacy on their behalf.

The Commonwealth Bank also announced an extension of the customer contact element of the program. Details regarding the program will be included in the next statement or notice to be sent to the more than 300,000 current Commonwealth Financial Planning customers. These details will include clear guidance about how customers of Commonwealth Financial Planning between 2003 and 2012 can register for the program. Commonwealth Bank recognises the contractual restrictions in contacting the customers of independently owned Financial Wisdom practices, but will continue to pursue various alternatives to contact past customers of both businesses.

"Since the announcement of the Open Advice Review program, we have advertised the program prominently in newspapers and on radio stations that collectively reach many millions of Australians. We are confident that most affected customers have seen these advertisements. However, to ensure that we maximise the chances that all customers who may have been affected become aware of the program, we are now expanding our contact. We will also continue to work with community groups to find other ways to contact affected customers who may not have heard about the program," Mr Narev said.

"Our goal is to provide reassurance to customers, and do the right thing for customers who may have been affected by poor financial advice in the past." 

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