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Australian Bankers' Association unveils new banking code of practice

The Australian Bankers' Association filed the new Banking Code of Practice to the country's corporate regulator for approval, less than a month after the Australian government announced a probe into the financial sector.

The code is the first industry code to be sent to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission for approval and was part of industry initiatives announced in April 2016 to raise banking standards, the ABA said. It was developed only nine months after getting the final report from independent reviewer Phil Khoury.

More transparency around products and services and a more prominent commitment to ethical behavior are some of the changes that Australians can expect in the new code, the association said in a Dec. 20 statement. The code has been divided into 10 parts with four new sections including one dedicated to small businesses and another related to making banking easily accessible for customers.

"The remaining six sections represent a complete restructure of important parts of the current code," ABA CEO Anna Bligh said.

The changes include a new deferred sales model for consumer credit insurance on credit cards, small-business contracts written in plain English, and the right to close a credit card account online, the ABA noted. Banks will inform customers before their introductory credit card interest free period expires in addition to introducing ways to identify customers who may be experiencing financial difficulty and implement better safety nets for guarantors.