The ACCC has now granted interim authorisation allowing the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and banks to continue to work together on a variety of existing COVID-19 relief packages, including those tailored to small business.
As such, the banks will continue to defer loan repayments and waive certain banking fees for small businesses impacted by the pandemic, as well as facilitate second-phase financial recovery.
“In the context of COVID-19-related lockdowns and restrictions, the ACCC recognises that large numbers of businesses and individuals are continuing to experience significant financial hardship,” ACCC chair Rod Sims said.
“As well as offering customers the packages covered by the interim authorisation, banks can also individually offer more favourable and tailored solutions to their customers experiencing financial hardship during these times.”
The interim authorisation applies to all ABA member banks who agree to participate, which include AMP Bank, ANZ, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, Citigroup, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, HSBC, ING, Macquarie Bank, National Australia Bank, Bank of Queensland, Suncorp Bank and Westpac.
The ABA sought interim authorisation on behalf of its members as the initial 12-month authorisation the ACCC granted on 14 August last year was due to expire.
And while the authorisation is subject to a number of conditions, including an obligation for the banks to notify the ACCC before any co-ordination on further specific financial packages, it is expected to enable banks to continue to implement ongoing financial relief programs and introduce new financial relief packages and other measures where required
Having granted interim authorisation for the package, the ACCC is seeking feedback on its draft determination proposing to grant substantive authorisation to the ABA on the same terms until 30 June 2022.