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Banks enhance support for family and domestic violence victims

22 November 2016

Sydney, 22 November 2016: Customers experiencing financial abuse as a result of family and domestic violence will be better supported by banks following the release of a new industry guideline today, the Australian Bankers’ Association said.

“Domestic violence is a serious community issue and banks have a role to assist customers who may be impacted financially as a result,” ABA Executive Director – Retail Policy Diane Tate said.

“Customers affected by domestic violence can experience abuse of their finances, such as being forced to take out a credit card or loan in their name, or having money taken from their account without their knowledge or consent.

“It is important that banks do everything possible to minimise the burden on these customers when they are dealing with their bank.

“To help with this, the ABA has developed a new guideline on how bank staff can be more aware of the impacts of domestic violence and understand how to help customers.

“For example, taking care to keep the customer’s contact details private from a joint-account holder, providing copies of documents free of charge, and referring customers to organisations that offer specialist domestic violence support,” she said.

“Banks should ensure they can offer flexible hardship arrangements to customers who could be managing debts jointly with an ex-partner, and that they can fast track this help.

“The guideline recognises that banks don’t need legal evidence of domestic violence, such as an Apprehended Violence Order, to be able to offer assistance to customers,” Ms Tate said.

The guideline also includes information on staff training to identify the signs of financial abuse to better support customers, and how banks can help their employees who may be impacted by domestic violence themselves.

Ms Tate said over the past 12 months the ABA had consulted with banks and a number of stakeholders to develop the guideline.

“The ABA will continue to work with banks and consumer organisations to update the guideline to reflect policy and legislation changes, including anything that arises from the independent review of the Code of Banking Practice.

“Banks are committed to having the best practices to get things right for customers. The implementation of the industry guideline will take place in two stages, the first of which is banks raising awareness among staff and making changes to training. The second half of 2017 will see banks make the necessary changes to their internal processes, procedures and policies.”

This guideline builds on previous work by banks to prevent financial abuse of customers, in particular older Australians and people with a disability, first published in 2013.

The ABA has also updated its guideline on helping customers in financial difficulty to take into account the impacts of domestic violence.

ENDS

Contact: Stephanie Arena 0477 470 677 or Nic Frankham 0435 963 913

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