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Australia: Fast-tracking Debit Cards to Help Vulnerable Customers Dependent on Cash

The following post is provided by Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA), World Council's direct member organization in Australia, which represents the country's customer owned banking providers.  

Customer owned banking institutions welcome the Australian Securities and Investments Commission's (ASIC) approval of regulatory relief to fast track the issuance of debit cards to customers who use passbooks and branch visits to do their banking. These customers face particular impacts from the COVID-19 crisis.

The current environment puts cash-reliant Australians, particularly elderly customers, at risk of being unable to access goods and services due to declining cash acceptance by retailers and the introduction of self-isolation rules by governments.

ASIC has granted regulatory relief to allow members of the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and the Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA) to fast track the issuance of debit cards to passbook holders as needed. It is estimated that there are over half a million passbook holders who do not have debit cards. It will be a matter for individual banking institutions whether to take advantage of the regulatory relief.

“The joint application to ASIC by the Australian Banking Association (ABA) and COBA, and ASIC’s quick and positive response, is another good example of industry and regulators working together to help people through this crisis,” said Michael Lawrence, CEO of COBA, and a member of World Council's Board of Directors. “The option to fast track the issuance of debit cards will provide our members with further capacity to help Australians in a time of need.”

Ian Yates, Chief Executive of the Council on the Aging (COTA) Australia, noted that approximately 2.5% of COBA members’ customers, or over 100,000 account holders, do not have a card associated with their passbook account.

“COTA has received many calls during the COVID-19 period expressing concern that people struggled to purchase essential goods and services because some retailers stopped accepting cash,” said Mr Yates.

“COTA Australia thanks COBA and its member banks for stepping up to provide a rapid response for their older customers, and ASIC for flexibly permitting this to happen.”

This post originally appeared on COBA's Media Releases page.

COBA is owned by 63 member institutions: 34 credit unions, 27 mutual banks, 1 building society and 1 other; and a number of affiliate members. Collectively, the sector brings with it the strength of almost $128 billion in assets.