Ombudsman releases more details of small business loan inquiry

Elizabeth Barry 8 September 2016

small business loans inquiry

The office will use its "royal commission-like" powers as part of the inquiry.

Kate Carnell, Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), has released further details into plans for her office's inquiry into small business loans. In an article for the Sydney Morning Herald, Carnell outlined her office's plans to provide advice to the government regarding cases investigated by the Parliamentary Joint Committee in its report on the Impairment of Customer Loans.

"We will provide advice to the government to help determine if the issues in those cases are now being addressed by current government and industry reforms, or if additional reform measures should be implemented," Carnell said.

As the ASBFEO office was only established last year, Carnell explained its powers when conducting an inquiry such as this one.

"The legislation governing the ASBFEO office clearly outlines specific "royal commission-like" powers to compel interested parties to provide information and documentation, and to attend hearings," she said.

The inquiry will look at both small businesses and financial institutions, and Carnell's office is able to name and shame parties that don't attend.

The ASBFEO office cannot force banks to comply with its decisions, but will ask banks to demonstrate leniency if cases of misconduct are found. The misconduct will pertain to disputes between small businesses and lenders, such as a bank foreclosing on a loan before other avenues are investigated.

Carnell pointed out that while this inquiry will focus on the cases investigated by the Parliamentary Joint Committee, other instances of alleged misconduct can be investigated through her office's regular channels.

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