Financial Hardship Process

On 1 September 2018 the CIO scheme was transferred to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) as part of transition arrangements for AFCA commencing on 1 November 2018. From 1 September 2018 AFCA has been managing the CIO scheme.

As part of transition arrangements, any CIO complaint that is received prior to 1 November 2018 will be dealt with under the CIO Rules. From 1 November the AFCA scheme will commence and any disputes received by AFCA will be dealt with under the AFCA Rules.

For more information, visit the AFCA website.

The information outlined below is relevant for all complaints received by CIO prior to 1 November 2018. From 1 November 2018, AFCA will be dealing with all new financial services complaints.

There are a number of stages in the process of financial hardship complaint handling. Below briefly outlines what may happen at each stage of the CIO complaint process.

Before making a complaint to CIO

Before making a complaint to us, the consumer should give the financial services provider (FSP) an opportunity to consider their request for a payment arrangement or other type of hardship assistance. 
All FSPs are required to have procedures for handling financial hardship applications from consumers.

The consumer should contact the FSP’s hardship area to discuss their circumstances. Contact details of a FSP’s hardship area can be found on our website. If the matter remains unresolved or if the FSP does not respond, the consumer can lodge a complaint with us.

Registration (When a complaint is made to CIO)

  • Every complaint we receive is registered on our system within 48 hours. Most complaints are registered within 24 hours.
  • Once registered, we acknowledge to the consumer receipt of their complaint.
  • We also notify the FSP of our receipt of the complaint, remind it not to commence or continue with enforcement action, and ask for a copy of their response to the consumer’s hardship request.


  • If required, we will request more information from either or both parties.
  • We may negotiate an outcome acceptable to both parties, mainly through shuttle negotiation over the phone, but we may also enter into detailed written negotiations.
  • We may arrange for the parties to attend a conciliation conference. We will only do so if we consider that it is appropriate in the circumstances and both parties agree to attend. The conciliation conference can be conducted over the telephone or face to face.
  • Alternatively, we may make a formal Recommendation to the FSP that they enter into a particular payment arrangement with the consumer or provide the consumer with some other form of hardship assistance.


  • If the parties agree on an outcome, we will review it to ensure that it is fair and that the terms of the agreement are clearly set out.
  • If the parties cannot agree on an outcome and, based on the available information, a payment arrangement or other type of hardship relief is appropriate, the Ombudsman may make an Order or Determination.
  • If a payment arrangement or other type of hardship relief is not appropriate, we are generally not able to assist the consumer further and will inform them of our reasons.
  • The consumer is afforded an opportunity to respond to our decision.