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External review - The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal

If a complaint to a regulated superannuation fund is not satisfactorily resolved within 90 days, the person can lodge a complaint with an external dispute resolution scheme, the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. Regulated funds must inform members of the right to take a complaint to the Tribunal.

The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal was set up under the Superannuation (Resolution of Complaints) Act 1993 (Cth) to resolve complaints against regulated superannuation funds.

The Tribunal’s aim is to be fair, economical, informal and quick in dealing with complaints. There are no filing fees or charges. No costs can be awarded against an unsuccessful complainant, and successful complainants cannot recover costs against other parties to the complaint.

The Tribunal deals with thousands of enquiries and hundreds of complaints each year.

What can be complained about?

A complaint must be about a decision or conduct that a fund member or beneficiary alleges was unfair or unreasonable.

Who can be complained about?

Complaints can be lodged against the superannuation fund trustee. Other parties, such as insurance companies and claims assessors, can be joined to the complaint.

What the Tribunal cannot consider

The Tribunal cannot consider some types of complaints, including:

  • a complaint that has not been first raised through the fund’s internal complaints process – a person must receive an unsatisfactory response or no response within 90 days before loding a complaint with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal;
  • complaints about the management of a fund as a whole, such as investment performance;
  • complaints about non-regulated superannuation funds, such as those with less than five members and some public sector funds;
  • a complaint that has been or is being dealt with elsewhere, such as in a civil court;
  • complaints about a decision relating to the payment of a total and permanent disability benefit if the claim was not made within two years of the member permanently ceasing work, or the complaint to the tribunal was not made within two years of the first decision of the trustee to refuse payment;
  • complaints that the Tribunal regards as trivial, vexatious, misconceived or lacking in substance;
  • complaints against an employer’s failure to pay contributions (complaints about unpaid superannuation can be directed to the Australian Taxation Office);
  • a complaint about a life insurance product that is not an annuity or superannutaion product e.g. life insurance (these complaints should be directed to the Financial Ombudsman Service).

Common complaints

The most common complaints to the Tribunal are about:

  • decisions on the distribution of superannuation death benefits;
  • the rejection of superannuation disability benefit claims;
  • the miscalculation of benefits;
  • failure to provide information or documentation;
  • the imposition of fees and charges by trustees;
  • unreasonable delay in payment and miscalculation of a benefit payment, or contribution.

Complaints outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction

Nearly half the complaints the Tribunal receives are outside its' jurisdiction, primarily because:

  • complaints have not been through the internal review process of the superannuation fund, or
  • complaints about decisions on total and permanent disability claims are lodged outside the 12 month time limits.

If the Tribunal determines that a complaint is outside its jurisdiction, it will notify the parties in writing, usually after giving the complainant the opportunity to make submissions as to why the complaint should be found to be within its jurisdiction.

Time limits

In addition to the time limits on total and permanent disability claims, complaints generally must be lodged with the tribunal within 12 months of the relevant decision. If in doubt a complaint should be made as soon as possible and the Tribunal will advise whether they can deal with it.

Extensions of time

The Tribunal can extend the time limit if it thinks it is reasonable in the circumstances, although it currently has no discretion to extend the time limits on total and permanent disability claim decisions.

Complaints about death benefits

A complaint about the payment of a superannuation death benefit cannot be made to the Tribunal if the person claiming the benefit:

  • was notified in writing that any complaint against the trustee’s decision must be lodged within 28 days, and
  • did not lodge the complaint within that time.
Dispute Resolution  :  Last Revised: Thu Nov 1st 2018
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