On this page
Sometimes things go wrong. Whether it’s your super fund or its insurer, sometimes the decision about your super account or the information provided is just not the way it should be.
But what can you do about it? And how do you go about making a complaint?
SuperGuide has put together a simple explainer to help walk you through the process of talking to your super fund and getting things put right.
How to make a complaint about your super fund
When it comes to making a complaint, it’s important to do things the right way if you want to make the process as painless as possible – and to have the best chance of a good result.
Step 1 – Work out what you are complaining about
Although it sounds silly, it’s important to consider exactly what your super fund has done that you want to complain about:
- Ensure you can explain the problem clearly and stick to the facts.
- Think about what type of loss you have experienced and what sort of outcome or remedy you want to achieve.
- Write a timeline of events so your super fund – or a third-party arbitrator – can understand what happened in relation to your complaint.
- Collect any relevant documents to help support your complaint, as you will need these during the process. This could include your annual member statements, Product Disclosure Statement or correspondence from the fund trustee.
- Consider if you want to authorise someone to complain on your behalf, such as your financial adviser or accountant.
Step 2 – Talk to your super fund
If you are unhappy, your first port of call should be your super fund’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) area. The contact details should be on the fund’s website and in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) you received when you joined.
SuperGuide Premium is ad-free
Queries or complaints can usually be made via telephone, email or post, but a formal complaint should be made in writing.
Super funds are required to investigate your complaints fairly and provide both a written response and information about what to do if you are not satisfied.
Responses from your super fund must be within a set time period. The fund should tell you the IDR process has concluded and the outcome, plus inform you of your right to complain to AFCA (see below) and any time limits on making that complaint.
Step 3 – Complain to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA)
If you are not satisfied with the response from your super fund, your next step is to contact the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).
AFCA is a dispute resolution scheme designed to provide free, fair and independent assistance with complaints about super products. It acts as an independent and impartial ombudsman, which means it doesn’t act on your behalf or on behalf of your super fund.
Background to AFCA
Disputes about your super are often stressful but, until recently, the complexity of the complaint system made it even tougher.
Prior to the commencement of AFCA on 1 November 2018, there were three external dispute resolution (EDR) schemes:
– Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT)
– Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)
– Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO)
AFCA has now replaced the SCT as the EDR scheme for super complaints. FOS and CIO are no longer operational.
The SCT continues to operate alongside AFCA to resolve complaints received prior to 1 November 2018, but is no longer accepting new complaints. Pre-November 2018 complaints cannot be transferred from the SCT to AFCA and any withdrawn SCT complaints cannot be relodged with AFCA.
Your complaint is referred to your super fund for review. The fund must try to resolve it directly with you before AFCA will consider the complaint.AFCA has a three-step complaint resolution process:
- If your complaint is not resolved, AFCA works with all parties to try and achieve a settlement using methods such as negotiation and conciliation.
- AFCA makes a determination (or decision) on the complaint.
What super complaints will AFCA review?
AFCA will consider complaints about the decisions and conduct of:
- trustees of a regulated super fund, including an insurer’s decision about insurance provided through your super account
- trustees of an approved deposit fund (ADF)
- life companies issuing a superannuation annuity product
- a retirement savings account (RSA) provider
- trustees of a life policy fund’s decision about admitting a member to the fund.
Need to know
Complaints about SMSFs, financial advice relating to super products not provided by a super fund trustee, or other investment products held outside super, are not classed as super complaints by AFCA.
These complaints can be considered, however, under AFCA’s investments and advice jurisdiction.
What super issues can and can’t I complain about?
Before rushing off to lodge a complaint about your super fund with AFCA, it’s important to check whether it has the power to deal with your complaint.
AFCA will consider super complaints about:
- advice you were given about a super product
- fees or costs incorrectly charged or calculated, but not fees or costs you think are too high
- information you were not given about the product, including fees or costs
- errors in information provided to you (such as incorrect benefit statements)
- errors in information provided to the ATO about your contributions
- decisions your super fund made, including applications for insurance through your super account
- disability claim decisions, including where the claim involves insurance cover through your super fund
- death benefit payments
- unreasonable delays in paying a benefit or switching investment options
- instructions that were not followed (such as switching your investment option or changing your insurance cover)
- incorrect or unauthorised transactions.
AFCA will not consider super complaints about:
- Your employer’s failure to pay super contributions. (You should complain to the ATO instead. For more information, read SuperGuide What to do if your employer doesn’t pay your super.)
- Life insurance products that are not superannuation annuity policies. (AFCA deals with these complaints under its general jurisdiction.)
- Annuities not issued by a life company, such as those issued by a friendly society. (AFCA deals with these complaints under its general jurisdiction.)
- Financial advice relating to super if the financial adviser was not acting under the fund trustee’s Australian Financial Services Licence when providing the advice. (AFCA deals with these and other financial advice complaints under its general jurisdiction.)
Need to know
When making a determination about your complaint, AFCA cannot make a decision that is:
– contrary to the law
– contrary to the governing rules of the super fund or ADF
– contrary to the terms and conditions of a superannuation annuity policy, contract of insurance or RSA (except to redress an unfair or unreasonable product sale).
AFCA is not permitted to award compensation in relation to a super complaint, but can consider whether it was unfair or unreasonable for a trustee not to settle a claim or take a different approach.