Waiting for a response – super funds fail at complaint basics

woman making complaint to super fund

If you’ve had to make a complaint to a financial institution, it likely means you’ve suffered some kind of financial stress. So you’d obviously want the complaint to be handled quickly and efficiently.

Yet that hasn’t been the case for many. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has set its sights on a complaints process it says has a number of holes and on super funds that aren’t meeting existing obligations.

In some cases, ASIC says, the funds’ handling of complaints has been to do nothing at all – not even respond to the complainant.

ASIC’s Regulatory Guide 271 Internal dispute resolution (RG 271) mandates a maximum period of 45 days to respond to a complaint. However, ASIC found that almost 20 per cent of super funds failed to comply with this seemingly very generous time frame. In half of those cases, the funds did not even provide a reason to their complaining members.

Read: Victims of crime call for superannuation loophole to be closed

While ASIC noted that 10 per cent of the funds it examined recorded fewer than 10 complaints for every 10,000 members, those numbers may look better than they should. ASIC identified two possible reasons for this. Super trustees may be failing to actually record complaints, or they could be using a definition of ‘complaint’ that is so narrow as to exclude the majority of cases.

These shortcomings have attracted the attention of finance minister Stephen Jones, who took aim at repeat offenders in an address last December. “The customer experience needs to improve across the board … the sector is on notice,” he said. “I want to stress the importance of the member experience to the overall sustainability of superannuation as an institution.”

Read: ATO falls short in superannuation compliance, report finds

An interesting aspect of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) 2021–22 Superannuation Complaint report is the huge spike in complaints not resolved within a year. The 2021–22 release was the fourth edition of the annual report and in the first of them (2018–19) the number of report cases not resolved within 365 days was zero.

That rose to 97 in 2019–20, and then to 268 the following year. This year, the figure was up to 426 – a 59 per cent increase.

One can’t help but wonder if such a big jump might have been prevented if trustees met the first part of their obligations – responding to complainants within 45 days.

Read: Which two super funds saw positive returns in 2022?

Xavier O’Halloran, director of Super Consumers Australia, says it’s time funds got their act together. “It’s clear from ASIC’s review that many super funds are not putting members first,” he said.

“They’ve either not adequately invested or set up their complaints handling processes poorly, which has led to some consumers waiting months to get a complaint resolved.”

Mr O’Halloran’s sentiments were echoed by the finance minister. “Government and the regulators will take steps to lift standards but in a competitive marketplace, funds should be leading the way,”  he said.

Have you had cause to make a complaint to your superannuation trustee? What was your experience? Why not share your thoughts in the comments section below?

Written by Andrew Gigacz

Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.

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One Comment

  1. I had to lodge a complaint with Australian Super because they refused to rollover my account to my SMSF as they claimed all 3 documents which I had to lodge with the claim were unclear .They then change their mind that one document was actually clear but the other two were not clear.
    Australian Super disallowed my complaint so i referred it to APRA.
    During subsequent correspondence Australian Super for the first time stated that a major reason for not rolling over my account was that the name of the bank account to which I directed the rollover differed from the name of my SMSF.The name of the bank account was that of the Trustee Company and it was set up that way because NAB required it to be so .
    it is fundamental that the Trustee conducts all transactions on behalf of each Fund .
    Having been shown to be incompetent about my SMSF bank account Australian Super then made the rollover which demonstrates the two documents which they previously claimed to be unclear were in fact clear.
    There were also other poor performances which demonstrate that Australian Super administration is incompetent.

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