Co-author: Richard McClelland
If an error is made or you have been wronged by you super fund in some way, the SCT can help rectify the situation. Established by the federal government in 1993, the Tribunal is an independent body, separate from the super industry, but with the power to make binding decisions. It is generally free and an easy-to-use alternative to seeking resolution through the court system. According to its 2016-17 Annual Report, the SCT received 3,151 complaints over the last year, up 17% from the previous year.
What is the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal?
The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) is a free and independent dispute resolution body that deals with superannuation-related grievances. They offer neutral, alternative sessions that many people find is a simpler substitute to the traditional court system.
Here are some examples of common complaints you could take to the SCT:
- If you believe that a death benefit was paid to the wrong person
- There is an unnecessary delay in a payment from an insurer
- If you or your insurer miscalculated a benefit, payment or commutation
- If your insurer refuses to approve a claim for a disability benefit, whether paid by a Retirement Savings Account (RSA) provider or not
- If your insurer falsified the terms and conditions of a life or annuity policy
- If there are errors in your annual statement
This means that they can assist you in resolving complaints over missing payments, erroneous calculations of payments, misrepresentation about what is covered by a life insurance policy or providing erroneous information to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). They can’t resolve issues related to employers failing to pay super, life insurance products not related to super or other types of annuities. For more on what the Tribunal can and cannot assist you with, visit their page here.
During the 2016/17 year, the SCT dealt with a number of different complaints regarding the decisions or conduct of:
- Superannuation trustees
- Retirement Savings Account (RSA) providers
- Superannuation providers.
It also received complaints in relation to regulated superannuation funds, life policy funds, approved deposit funds and exempt public sector superannuation schemes.
It’s worth noting that the SCT generally cannot deal with disputes involving or complaints about self-managed superannuation funds (SMSFs).
So what were the most common complaints?
According to the 2016-17 SCT Annual Report, there were 1,376 super complaints that fell within the SCT’s jurisdiction. It categorised the complaints into three key groups:
- Death benefits (29.7% or 409 complaints) – these are often disagreements about who the death benefit should be paid to. The relative frequency of these complaints is another good reason to ensure your estate planning arrangements are up-to-date – and to complete your death benefit nomination forms correctly.
- Disability (19.8% or 273 complaints) – these are complaints where the person is usually trying to get a total and permanent disability (TPD) payout. As mentioned in this article, being aware of your cover for TPD is important – but it is underestimated by many. A case study contained in the SCT 2013-14 annual report describes an individual who could no longer work as a fitter and turner, who did not receive his TPD benefit due to a series of events out of his control – mainly his employer changing their super fund provider.
- Administration (50.5% or 694 complaints) – this category encompasses a broad bucket of complaints with the biggest subcategories being insurance premiums (144 complaints), failure to provide information (21), account balance (83), fees and charges on super funds (72), financial hardship claims, administrative errors (28) and delays in transfers and payments (60).
Find out more about the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal on their website.
How do you make a complaint?
If you have a complaint about your super fund, then your first step is to contact the fund itself in writing. Your fund should have an official complaints process allowing you to submit your complaint. Check your fund’s website for information on this.
If you don’t receive a response in 90 days, or you are otherwise unhappy with the response, you can then escalate your complaint to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. Use the Tribunal’s complaint form to submit your complaint; this can be done online or by posting your complaint to:
Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
Locked Bag 3060
MELBOURNE VIC 3001
For assistance in lodging your complaint, you can contact the Tribunal on 1300 884 114.
What happens after you make your complaint?
Once the Tribunal has received your complaint, they will review it to ensure that it falls within their jurisdiction. If your complaint does not fall within their remit, they will contact you to let you know why. They might also refer you to an alternative body to handle the matter.
If your complaint does fall within the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal’s jurisdiction they will then begin reviewing your case and collecting the documentation and information they need. After which, they will attempt to resolve the matter via conciliation; attempting to find a solution to which all parties agree. If this is unsuccessful, the Tribunal review panel will meet to further investigate the issue.
The Tribunal review panel focuses on whether the conduct at the centre of the complaint was unfair or unreasonable, as well as what the consequences of the conduct were. They will then make a binding determination to resolve the matter. Once a determination has been issued, the complaint is considered closed, and the determination will be enforced by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, if necessary. If any party objects to the determination, they can lodge an appeal in the Federal Court.
Generally speaking, the Tribunal attempts to resolve complaints within eight weeks of the hearing. The Tribunal never seeks to impose costs or damages in its determinations, instead limiting them to returning you to the position you were in before the unfair decision was made.
For more on superannuation, make sure to check out our dedicated super page, including comparison tools, as well as checking out a sample comparison of super funds below.
The following table contains details of the superannuation funds rated by Canstar. This table has been sorted by three-year performance (highest to lowest), and is for someone aged 30-39 with a balance of between $55-100k. Please note that the performance information shown in the table is for the investment option used by Canstar in rating of the superannuation product.
Canstar considers the annual investment returns of a product’s default investment option, including default life-stage options. Where a product does not have a default investment option, annual returns for the investment option with the highest FUM and a 60-80% growth asset allocation are used.
To view the past performance of all super funds, rated by Canstar, use our comparison tool: