Knowing who to complain to when you need help resolving a problem with your super fund or financial adviser can be confusing.
Whether it’s a concern about poor advice, problems with unpaid SG contributions, or questions about how your private data has been handled, there are a number of organisations that can help.
To help you understand what assistance is available, SuperGuide has compiled a simple guide to the main dispute resolution schemes you can contact about super and advice complaints.
Complaining the right way
If you’re upset with your super fund or financial adviser about some aspect of the advice or service you’ve received, talking to them is usually the last thing you want to do. However, telling them you’re unhappy is your best move, as they may be able to solve the problem immediately.
If you are not satisfied with the response, the next step is to make a formal complaint through the firm’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) process. ASIC’s MoneySmart website has a set of sample complaint letters you can use.
Financial advisers and super funds must have a clear internal process in place for handling complaints:
SuperGuide Premium is ad-free
- Super funds – This procedure is usually outlined on your fund’s website and in the product disclosure statement (PDS) you received when you first joined.
- Financial advisers – Australian Financial Services (AFS) licensees must have an in-house process for handling complaints, including a system for dealing with complaints about how they’ve handled a client dispute.
To find out more, contact your financial adviser or their AFS licensee (usually one of the major banks or insurance companies). You can also complain to your adviser’s professional body. Check ASIC’s financial advisers register to find the right professional body.
Good to know
Even if you are reluctant to contact your super fund or financial adviser, an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme or third party will usually require you to contact the fund or your adviser before it will consider your complaint and try to resolve it.
EDR schemes hear disputes for free and are a simple and cheap alternative to going to court.
Legislation requires all financial services businesses to belong to an external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme and this body is responsible for handling complaints that cannot be resolved by the organisation’s internal dispute resolution (IDR) team.
Good to know
Before contacting an EDR scheme, it’s important to be clear about what the dispute is about, and what you would like to happen to consider your complaint resolved.
Otherwise, you may find you waste a lot of time – or worse still – your complaint is unsuccessful. For more on the right way to make a complaint, read SuperGuide article 3 steps to making a complaint about your super fund.
Which complaints body is right for you?
If you have an unresolved complaint about your super fund or adviser, it’s important to talk to someone who can actually help. Here’s an overview of the three key EDR bodies:
Changes to the complaints system
In November 2018, a single EDR scheme called the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) replaced the three EDRs previously responsible for the financial services industry:
– Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT)
– Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS)
– Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO)
AFCA began taking complaints from 1 November 2018, although the SCT continues to run alongside the new body to work through a backlog of existing complaints.
Any complaints made to FOS and CIO before 1 November 2018 and remaining unresolved at that date, are being dealt with by AFCA under the rules applying when the complaint was originally made.
1. Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA)
AFCA considers complaints about financial services in areas such as:
- Credit, finance and loans
- Banking deposits and payments
- Investments and financial advice
AFCA’s role is to assist consumers and small businesses reach agreements with financial firms about how to resolve their complaints. It is an impartial and independent body. If a complaint cannot be resolved between the parties, AFCA will decide an appropriate outcome.
AFCA’s decisions can be binding on the financial firm and it may award compensation for losses suffered because of a financial firm’s error or inappropriate conduct. It can also provide remedies for superannuation complaints.
Good to know
If you’re interested in how different super funds, insurers, banks, financial advisers and other financial firms rank when it comes to consumer complaints, AFCA has a new comparative reporting tool that allows you to do just that.
The AFCA Datacube is updated every six months with information about the number of complaints it receives from member firms, how long it takes a firm to resolve customer complaints and the number of times financial firms did not respond to a complaint.
2. Australian Tax Office (ATO)
Although your employer is not a financial adviser or a super fund, employers play an important role in the super system because they are legally required to make regular super guarantee (SG) contributions on behalf of employees.
If you believe your employer has not made contributions on your behalf or has not been paying enough SG, you can use the ATO’s web tool – Report unpaid super contributions from my employer – to let the ATO know. The ATO will then investigate the situation.
The ATO’s web tool can also be used if your employer has paid your super late or paid your super into the incorrect super fund.
You can also contact the ATO’s helpline on 13 10 20 for complaints about your employer failing to pay super contributions on your behalf.
For more information about unpaid super contributions, read SuperGuide articles:
- Does the ATO do enough on unpaid super?
- What to do if your employer doesn’t pay your super
- The easy way to find and consolidate your lost super
3. Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC)
Super funds collect personal information about their members, including your name, address, email address, phone number, date of birth and Tax File Number (TFN). They also collect information about your beneficiaries, employment details (including salary) and, in some situations, information about your health and medical history.
If you believe your privacy has been breached in relation to this information, you should contact the super fund’s privacy officer to complain.
If you are unhappy with the response – or if the fund has not responded within 30 days – you can contact AFCA or the OAIC about the privacy breach.
You can only contact the OAIC about a breach in the handling of your sensitive personal information, such as your TFN. Complaints must be made in writing, or online using the OAIC’s Privacy Complaint Form.
Need to know
Although members of most super funds can complain to AFCA, members of an SMSF must generally resolve their own disputes. This may require costly legal assistance.
AFCA does not class complaints about SMSFs or financial advice relating to super not provided by a super trustee as a super complaint. It will only consider these disputes under its investments and advice jurisdiction.
Want to plan your retirement properly?
Become a SuperGuide Premium member and access independent expert guidance on how to plan your retirement, including how much super you need, how long you are likely to live for, whether you could be eligible for the Age Pension, the implications of retiring at different ages, how to prepare for retirement and much more.
Includes performance rankings for 226 super funds and 159 pension funds, more than 500 articles, how-to guides, checklists, tips and strategies, calculators, case studies, quizzes and a monthly newsletter.