The Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) offers consumers a free service to resolve their disputes with financial services providers.
CIO is registered as a not-for-profit charity. It is authorised by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) to deal with financial services and privacy-related complaints.
As an industry-funded company limited by guarantee, CIO has more than 24,000 members who operate in a variety of financial service sectors. These include credit unions, building societies, non-bank lenders, mortgage brokers, financial planners, debt purchasers and collectors and time share operators.
Financial services are an essential service to all Australians. Consumers need to have confidence in their dealings with financial service providers. It is vital therefore that they have access to an impartial dispute resolution service when things go wrong. This is particularly important because the average consumer cannot afford to bring their dispute to court.
By providing consumers with access to justice at no charge, CIO meets an important social and community objective: to provide a forum consumers can turn to when they are unable, for whatever reason, to fix a problem with a financial services provider. In doing so, CIO also reduces pressure on our civil justice system by reducing the number of cases that are heard by courts and tribunals.
A significant number of consumers approach CIO because they are experiencing difficulty in meeting their financial obligations. One out of every four complaints CIO deals with relates to financial hardship. Financial hardship is normally due to a significant change in a borrower’s financial circumstances (family break-up, death of spouse, workplace injury, unemployment or illness). In these circumstances, CIO assists the consumer to seek a variation of their payment obligations so that they can avoid defaulting on their loan while they are experiencing financial difficulties.
To ensure our services are accessible, efficient and fair, we engage with consumers and consumer agencies in a number of ways. Our outreach program focuses on accessibility for consumers who are at risk of being disadvantaged. The outreach program involves strong collaboration with community services providers, a physical presence at events for consumers and their advocates, and providing accessible resources and information to consumers.
We are particularly concerned about barriers to access for demographic groups who are at risk of being at disadvantage. Among these groups are consumers with a disability, consumers from a culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) background, low income earners, and Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous consumers are a core focus of our accessibility strategy and we make it a priority to promote our scheme at Aboriginal community events across Australia.
We are well advanced in developing a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to make CIO more accessible to Indigenous consumers. We expect to launch our RAP later this year which envisions a closer collaboration with other organisations catering to needs of Indigenous consumers, regular visits to communities in remote areas and a number of initiatives to further improve accessibility. By offering Aboriginal cultural appreciation training to our staff, we aim to increase cultural competence internally.
To ensure our services are accessible to hearing impaired or deaf consumers, our website features a video clip in Australian sign language (Auslan) which explains how to make a complaint and our complaint handling process.
For consumers from a CALD background, our website also features translated information in 22 languages. The multi-lingual section features basic information about CIO and translated complaint forms.
CIO was established as the Mortgage Industry Ombudsman Service Limited on 18 June 2003, and commenced operations on 1 July 2003.
CIO’s core objective was, and continues to be, to provide consumers access to a free dispute resolution service.
CIO was registered as a charity in 2012.
We adopted the name Credit Ombudsman Service Limited on 17 February 2004 before becoming the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) on 19 November 2014. established as the Mortgage Industry Ombudsman Service Limited (MIOS) on 18 June 2003, and commenced operations on 1 July 2003. We adopted the name Credit Ombudsman Service Limited (COSL) on 17 February 2004 before becoming the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) on 19 November 2014.