Banks escape inquiry with superficial scratches
During the recent banking inquiry, Australia was treated to a peek inside the often unscrupulous world of the big banks.
Huge profit margins, excessive fees and executive salaries soaring into the millions were just the beginning - the inquiry also trotted out a litany of fake documents, million-dollar "errors" and exploitative financial advice.
Despite the fanfare, to some it seemed the inquiry was mostly a superficial measure - a "PR victory" - and landed no major blows on the banks.
In fact, we learnt very little that we didn't know before.
After all, is it news to anyone that the big banks are looking after themselves first?
Even so, several ideas came out of the inquiry - the most significant was the formation of an independent banking tribunal, which would allow customers to take complaints to a neutral moderator.
The second reform would be to make banking products "portable", like a mobile phone number, making the process of switching banks as hassle-free as possible.
The third reform is aimed directly at addressing the issue that prompted the inquiry in the first place: the big banks' habit of passing Reserve Bank rate increases onto customers immediately but dragging their feet on rate cuts.
This reform would encourage banks to provide "tracking" variable rate mortgages, which would move in line with the Reserve Bank.
But these mortgages have been unsuccessful in the past, and bank executives weren't keen on their viability for the future.
The question now is if any of this will prompt real change, or whether a banking royal commission is next on the agenda.
A royal commission could drag on for years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars but if these problems are systemic - and evidence suggests they are - then the Labor Party, along with many Aussies and the experts at Mozo, think it may be a necessary step to protect consumers.