How to make a complaint
In order to make a complaint, you need to be clear on who you are complaining about; the reason for this is that different agencies handle complaints about different organisations.
Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
This tribunal is an independent dispute resolution body, and like many other such services worldwide offers a free alternative to costly legal action; this is an invaluable service to someone with little commercial background and without an in depth understanding of superannuation.
The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal cannot consider all complaints regarding superannuation; it can only consider complaints about decisions made by and the conduct of:
- Trustees of a regulated superannuation fund
- Life companies (and their agents), in their capacity as providers of annuity policies
- Providers of Retirement savings accounts
Complaints about other parties, including your employer unless it concerns their capacity as a trustee of a regulated fund, will need to be made to the appropriate bodies; advice on the appropriate contacts is provided by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal website http://www.sct.gov.au/pages/make-a-complaint/what-does-the-tribunal-cover
Who can complain?
A complaint can be raised by any person who considers one of the above parties to have behaved unfairly with regard to their superannuation. Prior to referral to the Tribunal however, the complainant must first have raised the issue directly with the party with whom they are aggrieved. In addition, standard complaints have to be raised within a stated timeframe, which for standard complaints is 12 months from the date of the conduct or decision to which the complaint relates, though it is worth noting that there are specific rules regarding death benefit and disability complaints, which would need to be reviewed individually.
Remit of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
A number of complaints are raised simply because the complainant does not understand their superannuation fund, and has been unable to obtain a satisfactory explanation which will clarify this for them; in other cases, the complainant will have suffered detriment due to the decision or conduct about which they are complaining. The tribunal will investigate the complaint to determine the extent of the detriment suffered, whether an adverse impact has been suffered by the complainant; their powers are limited solely to providing a remedy to the detriment.
Referral to the Superannuation Ombudsman
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office is an industry funded organisation, established to represent the interests of the general public; if a complaint has been referred to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal and the complainant is unhappy with the determination, it can be referred to the Ombudsman for further, independent review. Like the Tribunal, this service is free to access, and the primary aim is to ensure that the public have been treated fairly and that disputes are resolved appropriately.
The majority of complaints concerning superannuation will be referred to the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, which itself is subject to oversight by the Commonwealth Ombudsman. They are only eligible for consideration once the complaint has been raised with the offending party, and no satisfactory resolution reached.
In addition to referrals from complaints reviewed by the Tribunal, the Ombudsman will also consider those previously reviewed by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), who have jurisdiction over some superannuation providers, and whose processes are broadly similar to those of the Tribunal as an independent body.