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Australian banks unveil measures to boost consumer confidence

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Australia's biggest banks on Thursday announced measures to protect consumers and increase transparency following a series of revelations about misconduct and ahead of a federal election set to be fought partly over calls for tougher sector oversight.

[SYDNEY] Australia's biggest banks on Thursday announced measures to protect consumers and increase transparency following a series of revelations about misconduct and ahead of a federal election set to be fought partly over calls for tougher sector oversight.

The package includes reviewing product sales commissions, supporting whistle-blower employees and removing individuals from the industry for poor conduct, the Australian Bankers Association (ABA) said in a statement.

"This plan delivers immediate action to make it easier for customers to do business with banks, including when things go wrong," ABA chief executive Steven Munchenberg said in a statement.

The plan, parts of which are subject to regulatory approval or legislative reform, would be overseen by an independent expert.

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Australia's four major lenders - National Australia Bank , Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and ANZ Banking Group - rode out the 2008 financial crisis with barely a scratch, but are now facing mounting criticism over alleged misconduct including rate rigging and insurance scams.

Political pressure is piling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to order a sector-wide inquiry into bank conduct as he campaigns for a federal election in July.

The government announced reforms to the markets watchdog on Wednesday, aiming to head off malfeasance at financial institutions before it occurs.

REUTERS