The long-awaited (and long-threatened) Royal Commission into Australia’s banks and the financial services industry has begun.

It is widely hoped that this will bring extra responsibility and scrutiny to a sector that doesn’t have a great track record with its customers. The draft Terms of Reference of the Commission state that it must, among other things, inquire into:

  1. the nature, extent and effect of misconduct by a financial services entity (including by its directors, officers or employees, or by anyone acting on its behalf);
  2. any conduct, practices, behaviour or business activity by a financial services entity that falls below community standards and expectations;
  3. the use by a financial services entity of superannuation members’ retirement savings for any purpose that does not meet community standards and expectations or is otherwise not in the best interest of members;

The Commission has to decide on the causes of the issues that are uncovered, and whether the internal systems of financial organisations and regulators are adequate to live up to legal requirements and community expectations about the way a financial organisation behaves.

Additionally, the Commission will then decide if further changes to the legal framework or operations of financial regulators may be required.

Due to recent changes, the Commission has been broadened to include individual stories from victims of the industry.

Financial scandals in recent years at big banks including Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA), in its life insurance and financial planning division, have received significant coverage in the media. It was revealed in November that National Australia Bank Ltd. (ASX: NAB) sacked 20 bankers and punished another 32 employees following inaccurate and incomplete documents for 2,300 home loans.

Consumer groups and trade unions have been campaigning actively for the Commission to accept individual stories. The ABC reported on Monday that the Commission will now accept individual submissions.

Consumer advocacy group Choice has also invited you to share your experience and vote on shaping their priorities in presenting to the Commission:

Shape CHOICE’s priorities for the Banking and Finance Royal Commission

Rask Media does not have a relationship with CHOICE, which is an independent and not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping consumers make better financial choices and purchases. However, we believe all Australians deserve a transparent and efficient financial system, free from unsavoury conflicts of interest.

Choice works hard to campaign for the rights of everyday Aussies, so filling out their survey could be a quick and simple way of getting your views and experiences heard.

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