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Leading law firm Slater and Gordon has announced plans to lead a consumer coalition of legal services and advocacy groups in response to the royal commission into the banking sector.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the inquiry this morning in a bid to restore public faith in the financial system following a request from Australia’s big four banks.

Slater and Gordon Head of Class Actions Ben Hardwick welcomed the decision.

“Today’s commitment by the major banks to submit to a government inquiry into their conduct is a significant breakthrough,” Mr Hardwick said.

“The interests of consumers must be forefront in the impending process to ensure justice can be achieved for the thousands of Australians who have been mistreated by banks and financial service providers.

“The banks have banded together to submit to a royal commission and will no doubt adopt a collaborative approach to the inquiry.

“They have considerable top tier legal resources at their disposal, which must be met with equal legal strength.

“In our view, a coalition of consumer advocates and representatives should come together to ensure that this inquiry is properly constituted and provides Australians with the kind of fair-minded inquiry they deserve.”

Mr Hardwick said the scope of the inquiry’s terms of reference was one of the biggest concerns.

“There is a danger that narrow or selective terms of reference will not adequately address the grievances of Australian financial consumers,” Mr Hardwick said.

“We are calling for a comprehensive approach that considers the entire experience of the consumer including addressing the power imbalance that exists between banks and consumers at the time that they enter into banking or insurance contracts. An overly legalistic approach will not do the job.

“Slater and Gordon has a proud history of representing the interests of victims of financial misconduct and we see this as an opportunity to deploy our experience and expertise to benefit all Australian banking customers.

“We are prepared to take the lead to ensure that consumer advocates speak with one voice to influence the draft terms of reference and the selection of the right person to officiate over the inquiry.”

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