The recent Federal Court case by the ACCC was regarding incidents that transpired with ACM representatives on two accounts between 2011 and 2015.
ACM is a vastly different business now, with strong cultural changes that has much improved the way we do business.
Well before the judgment was handed down last month, we knew that we needed to do better, and for the last four years, we have been undergoing a dramatic transformation of the business.
a) Engaging one of the largest consumer welfare agencies, to audit our internal processes
b) Overhauling risk mitigation system controls, staff training and internal culture to ensure we best meet compliance and customer service standards.
This process resulted in a number of practical changes to the way our staff interact with customers. For instance, they now have greater flexibility to freeze accounts, impose longer payment moratoriums and write the account(s) off in circumstances such as poor health, financial constraints and domestic violence.
Additional 10 staff to the Compliance & Ethics Team – A New Compliance Review System now monitors a random sample of customer calls for adherence to regulatory obligations and provides real-time feedback to management, while a “sensitive word audit” immediately escalates accounts with trigger words such as “stroke, cancer, suicide” etc. to ensure that sensitive accounts are flagged to Compliance & Ethics Team (C&E) for review and action in real time.
We’ve also implemented preventive automated system controls to limit the number of times a customer can be contacted in alignment with regulatory requirements, whereby the contact system is automatically locked once the threshold has been met to prevent any further contact with the customer regarding their account.
These changes are a necessary part of ACM’s evolution into a more customer-centric business, and we’re glad to report that we’ve seen a huge drop in the number
of disputes and complaints as a result.
Recent staff surveys have also indicated more than 80% of our employees say their ability to respond to customers appropriately and confidentially is either ‘much better’ or ‘impressively better’ than the year prior.
A review of ACM’s business conducted by Tim Lord (former President, Dun & Bradstreet) of Anteris Consulting (Anteris Consulting were commissioned by the ACCC to undertake a comprehensive review of the Australian Debt Collection Industry on its behalf) delivered a favourable outcome and result. In particular, it found that ACM in partnership with a well-respected and renowned Australian community service consultancy organisation training program had resulted in “obvious, positive changes at the frontline”, which was particularly evident in the way we now handle vulnerable customers.
This process has been a big learning experience for ACM, and as a result, we’ve made many positive changes that have really transformed the way we do business.
This new, revitalised ACM has a customer-first focus that centres on providing Australians with ethical solutions to track and manage control of their financial situations.
ACM is, and will continue to be, open and transparent with the ACCC, and we are looking forward to working closely with industry regulators to explore new ways that we can improve ourselves and encourage best practice across the industry.