In April 2021 the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) found in favour of a complainant and ordered Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) to refund her over $8000 in premiums.The case is just one of many in which ACBF have had determinations against them for misleading and deceptive conduct in portraying themselves as an Indigenous organisation when in fact they are not.

CoffinA report in CHOICE magazine states that in April 2021 the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) found in favour of a complainant and ordered Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) to refund her over $8000 in premiums.

The case is just one of many in which ACBF have had determinations against them for misleading and deceptive conduct in portraying themselves as an Indigenous organisation when in fact they are not.

In the last 12 months ACBF has been taken to AFCA 28 times. There are other reports suggesting legal groups have many more cases against the company which are still outstanding.

The problems at ACBF run deep and have been the focus of Indigenous legal advocate organisations for over a decade. Many of these complaints about ACBF were aired during the financial services royal commission from 2017– 19.

Choice reports:

Lynda Edwards from Financial Counselling Australia says the company sought to exploit cultural obligations to sell their products to Indigenous people. 

"We know that for a lot of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people funerals are a ceremony, and to have a ceremony obviously costs money. They were using that cultural aspect to sell their product," she tells CHOICE.

"The way they marketed their goods and the way they presented it to community is really bad behaviour."

ACBF has since rebranded itself as Youpla and is now part-Aboriginal owned and remains part-owned by the non-Indigenous man Bryn Jones who was slammed in the royal commission. Jones stood down as director in January 2021 but still owns shares in the company.

They have also brought in high-profile NFL player Jamal Idris to rebrand their image.

Youpla has been denied a license to sell financial products and barred from taking on new customers, leading many to be concerned that it is at risk of going under and won't be able to repay its former clients the money they are owed from AFCA findings or funeral payouts. 

Read CHOICE's full article here.

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 Key Points

  • AFCA considers complaints that previously would have been handled by the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Credit and Investments Ombudsman and the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. AFCA is the dispute resolution scheme for financial services.

  • The Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF) has been taken to AFCA 28 times recently over misleading and deceptive conduct

  • The company has since rebranded, but has been barred from selling new products 

  • If the company becomes insolvent, victims won't be covered under the government's proposed compensation scheme of last resort