Lodging a banking ombudsman complaint with AFCA

Bank complaints happen all the time. Big banks like CBA and NAB report over 200,000 customer complaints each year – that’s almost 550 banking complaints each day! (And well done CBA and NAB for reporting their complaint numbers. Some of the other big banks don’t share this information.) If you have a banking complaint that you can’t resolve, making a banking ombudsman complaint with AFCA may be the solution.

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What’s the issue?

Some banking complaints can be hard to fix 

Lots of banking complaints are about small yet frustrating things that go wrong: bad service in a branch, not being able to access internet banking, long wait times on the phone. These simple complaints can usually be resolved quickly.

Ajust takes the effort out of making a complaint to your bank. It only takes a few minutes to share your story and then Ajust sends the right details to the right place – so you get the right outcome.

To make a complaint to your bank, get started now with Ajust. It’s fast and free.

All banks want to keep their customers happy when they can, so they’ll usually try to help you get a fair resolution to your complaint. But sometimes a banking complaint can be tricky and that’s where it can be helpful to get AFCA involved.

What do you need to know?

AFCA is the banking ombudsman in Australia 

While most banking complaints can be resolved easily, some complaints can be harder to resolve, especially where:

  • the bank and the customer disagree about what’s happened;
  • a tricky legal issue pops up;
  • a big amount of money is involved; or
  • the bank or the customer – and sometimes both – care more about being “right” than finding a resolution.

For these pricklier situations, the bank may not be able to sort things out. That’s why banks are required by law to be members of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) as an “external dispute resolution” scheme. This means that if something goes wrong with the service the bank provides, you can make a complaint to the AFCA if the bank does not resolve your complaint.

As Australia’s banking ombudsman, AFCA is responsible for investigating and resolving complaints between customers and their banks. In the early stages of a complaint they play a mediator role, helping you and your bank to come together to try to resolve the issues. If this doesn’t work they will make a decision about the complaint to get a resolution. AFCA is free for consumers to use - the banks need to pay all the costs of using AFCA to resolve a complaint. This means that so long as your complaint is reasonable, the banks will usually be motivated to be fair in dealing with your AFCA complaint. 

Just a bit more

Remember that CBA and NAB manage more than 200,000 complaints each year? Only about 5,000 or so of those complaints escalate to AFCA. That’s about 2.5% of their complaints. In total, from July 2021 to the end of June 2022 AFCA received 69,788 complaints, which resulted in payments of nearly $195 million being paid to customers as a result. No matter which way you look at it, that’s a huge outcome for customers who use AFCA.

What can you do?

Escalate your banking complaint to AFCA

If you’ve already tried to resolve the complaint directly with your bank, the first step to making a complaint to AFCA is to fill out a complaint form, either online or by hardcopy (which you can send to AFCA by email, mail or fax), or over the phone. You should make sure that you have all the relevant information available before you start filling out the form or giving AFCA a call. This includes:

  • Your name and contact details, and the name and contact details of your representative if you have one
  • The name of the bank or financial firm that you want AFCA to help with
  • What the problem is that you’re dealing with eg) have you been overcharged for something, or did an ATM not dispense your money properly
  • What you think is a fair resolution to your problem eg) do you want your money returned, with interest, as well as any fees or other charges? 
  • Any supporting documents to show the problem eg) your bank statement, receipts, calculations you’ve done that show an overcharge, emails with your bank’s customer service team, etc. 

When you're ready to submit your complaint to AFCA, you can visit their website and click 'Start the complaint process'

Once you submit your complaint, AFCA will send you an acknowledgement that they’ve received it. Your complaint will then progress to the Registration and Referrals team at AFCA. Once your complaint has been registered, AFCA will consider if it is appropriate to refer your complaint back to the Financial Firm. The Financial Firm will usually have between 21-45 days to consider your complaint but in many cases they will respond sooner than that. 

If your complaint is not resolved in the ‘refer back’ process, AFCA will then consider if your complaint falls within AFCA’s rules. Unfortunately AFCA can’t consider complaints that are outside their rules, so you generally won’t be able to get a decision from AFCA if it relates to something that, for example: 

  • happened outside Australia; 
  • relates to a bank of provider that you don’t have a customer relationship with; 
  • happened more than six years ago.

If your banking complaint does fall within the AFCA rules, then your complaint will continue through the AFCA process. AFCA will ask you and the Financial Firm for more information about your complaint and will make a decision about what should happen next. The timeframe for making a complaint to AFCA depends on what your complaint is about. Generally speaking, you have to make a complaint within six years of the date when you first became aware (or should reasonably have become aware) that you suffered the loss; and within two years of the date of the bank’s response to your complaint.

When you think about how many different services banks provide, and how many millions of customers they have, it’s not surprising that issues will come up. For lots of customers, what’s most important is how their bank deals with those issues when they arise. If you are not happy with the bank’s response to your banking complaint, it’s good to know that the banking ombudsman - AFCA - is there to help customers resolve their complaints. And don’t forget, if you need help making a complaint to your bank before it gets escalated to AFCA, Ajust is here to help - fast, fair, and free for customers to use. 


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Read about the issues consumers are facing. Have a different issue? You can still make a complaint.

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