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Friday 6 April 2018

18-092MR ASIC accepts enforceable undertaking from ANZ for fees for no service conduct

ASIC has accepted an enforceable undertaking (EU) from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) after an investigation found that ANZ had failed to provide documented annual reviews to more than 10,000 'Prime Access' customers in the period from 2006 to 2013.

The EU requires ANZ, among other things, to:

  1. pay a community benefit payment totalling $3 million
  2. provide an audited attestation from ANZ senior management to provide 'reasonable assurance' that the bank has, since 2014, provided documented annual reviews to customers who were entitled to such reviews, and
  3. provide further audited attestations from ANZ senior management as to the improvements that the bank has made to its compliance systems and processes, and that the design and implementation of those systems and processes will seek to ensure documented annual reviews are provided in accordance with the ANZ Prime Access package.

ASIC Deputy Chair Peter Kell said, 'Our report into fees for no service in October 2016 identified the major financial institutions' systemic failures in this area, which required affected customers to be fairly compensated and to be provided with the services that they have paid for.

'ASIC considered it critically important that improved systems and procedures be put in place to ensure this breach of trust could not re-occur. This enforceable undertaking with ANZ will deliver on that commitment,' he said.

In addition to the EU, ANZ has also agreed to compensate its Prime Access customers who, in the period from 2006 to 2013, did not receive the documented annual reviews that they were entitled to.  The compensation program is nearing completion and as at 28 February 2018, ANZ has paid $46.81 million (including earnings) in compensation to these customers (with the total compensation estimated at $46.85 million).

Background

The EU follows an ASIC investigation into ANZ in relation to ANZ's fees for no service conduct concerning the Prime Access service package which was offered to ANZ's financial planning customers for an annual fee from 2003.  A key component of the package was the provision of a documented annual review of the customer's financial plan.

As a result of the investigation, ASIC was concerned that:

  1. ANZ had failed to provide documented annual reviews to more than 10,000 Prime Access' customers who had paid for those reviews
  2. ANZ did not have adequate systems and processes in place to ensure that the Prime Access service, including the provision of documented annual reviews, was provided to Prime Access customers
  3. from as early as 2008, ANZ Financial Planning was aware of a number of confirmed instances in which documented annual reviews had not been provided to Prime Access customers, and that there was a risk of a broader issue in relation to further Prime Access customers not being provided with documented annual reviews, but the conduct continued until 2013, and ANZ did not breach report the conduct to ASIC until August 2013, and
  4. ANZ failed to comply with section 912A(1)(a) of the Corporations Act which provides that a financial services licensee must do all things necessary to ensure that the financial services covered by the licence are provided efficiently, honestly and fairly and a condition of its Australian financial services licence.

ANZ acknowledged in the EU that ASIC's concerns were reasonably held.

The EU has been accepted by ASIC as part of ASIC's Wealth Management Project to address systemic failures by financial institutions and advisers, over a number of years, to provide ongoing advice services to customers who paid fees to receive those services (commonly referred to by ASIC as 'fees for no service' conduct).  A report on ASIC's work in this area was released in October 2016 (Report 499), and updated in May 2017 (17-145MR) and December 2017 (17-438MR).

Last updated: 06/04/2018 09:46