Tuesday, 16 July 2019 Sydney
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Interim approval to Banking Code changes following Royal Commission::

The ACCC has granted interim authorisation to allow the Australian Banking Association (ABA) to take immediate steps to make certain changes to the Banking Code of Practice.

These changes come in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (Hayne Royal Commission).

The interim authorisation allows member banks to agree not to charge default interest on loans secured by agricultural land in drought or natural disaster declared areas.

It also allows member banks to agree not to charge dishonour fees or overdrawn fees or allow informal overdrafts on basic bank accounts.

Interim authorisation removes the risk that the ABA and its member banks would breach competition laws by agreeing to make, and implement, changes to the Banking Code. 

The ABA also intends to amend the Banking Code to define the minimum features of a basic bank account. While welcoming the proposals overall, some consumer groups have raised some concerns and suggested improvements to the basic banking proposals.

The ACCC will consider any submissions and possible changes the ABA proposes in response to these issues before deciding whether to grant interim authorisation for the basic banking proposals. 

“We’re allowing the banks to start making important changes following the Hayne Royal Commission, and for them to start taking steps to ensure they are prepared ahead of a new Banking Code coming into effect next year,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said today.

Interim authorisation commences immediately and remains in place unless it is revoked by the ACCC or the when the ACCC completes its assessment of the application for authorisation.

The ACCC expects to issue a draft determination on the ABA’s authorisation application in September 2019. 

Background

On 22 May 2019 the ABA sought ACCC authorisation to implement revisions to the Banking Code in response to the Hayne Royal Commission.

The proposed changes would come into force on 1 March 2020, pending ASIC approval of a second round of changes to the Banking Code separate to this review process.

The ACCC’s decision in relation to interim authorisation permits the ABA and member banks to begin preparations for the implementation of the revised Code next year, and for individual ABA member banks to make changes in accordance with the recommendations of the Hayne Royal Commission.

The ACCC’s decision is separate to ASIC’s review process.  Under s1101A of the Corporations Act,  ASIC has broad discretion to approve, on application, codes of conduct that relate to the activities of Australian financial services licensees. Approval by ASIC is not mandatory for a code of conduct, but can help provide consumers with a level of confidence in the code.

More information about the ACCC’s interim decision and the ABA’s substantive application for authorisation is available on the public registers at: Public Register - Australian Banking Association.