Financially hard-up Australians could expect better treatment from their banks beginning February 2014 when the updated Code of Banking Practice takes effect.
Crafted by the Australian Bankers' Association, the updated code sets benchmarks for fairness, transparency, behaviour and accountability from local lenders.
Among the changes that bank customers could expect are new and stronger provisions that will particularly apply to borrowers who have difficulty meeting their monthly amortisations.
Banks would also be required to provide information to concession cardholders about the availability of no- or low-fee accounts and to send borrowers with home mortgages yearly reminders about their insurance dues.
There will also be new standards how banks must assist clients from remote indigenous communities.
All major banks in Australia, including the big four, signed the current code and are bound to follow the updated code once it is adopted.
The big four are often criticised for not passing in full interest rate cuts made by the Reserve Bank of Australia.
On Thursday, ANZ Bank announced it will adopt the code, making it the first lender to make an official commitment to the updated code. ANZ said as part of its commitment to the updated code, it will invest further in training staff to help them recognise a customer who may qualify for an account with no- or low-standard fees and charges.
Michelle Crawford, the deputy chief executive officer of Good Shepherd Microfinance, welcome the release of the updated code because changes to consumer banking rules and tighter capital requirements demanded as an aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis generally favoured profitable customers and excluded people on low income.