Superannuation products you can complain about
AFCA can consider complaints about a range of different types of superannuation products including:
- Approved deposit funds: A fund with particular taxation advantages, designed to receive superannuation benefits that are rolled over from another superannuation fund (for example, accumulated superannuation benefits paid to someone leaving a job).
- Corporate funds: A private superannuation fund that is supported by an employer. Corporate funds are generally only open to people working for a particular employer or corporation.
- Industry funds: A type of not-for-profit superannuation created for people who work in a particular industry or under a particular industrial award. Often these are also open for anyone to join.
- Retail funds: A retail fund is a type of superannuation fund that is open to everyone. Retail funds can also have sub-plans that are only open to particular employee groups.
- Public sector schemes: A superannuation scheme established for employees of federal and state government departments. They are generally only available to government employees. Some public sector schemes will be regulated superannuation funds, but even if the public sector scheme is exempt from regulation, the trustee can elect to become an AFCA member. To find out if the trustee of a public sector scheme is an AFCA member, you can check the AFCA member search.
- Retirement savings accounts: A special capital guaranteed superannuation account with banks or credit unions that is used to save funds for retirement.
- Small APRA fund: A small superannuation fund for members of a family who do not want to be trustees of the fund. Instead a professional trustee is used.
- Superannuation annuity policy: An annuity policy provided by a life insurance company that is declared to be a superannuation policy under the Life Insurance Act 1995 (Cth). It provides a guaranteed stream of payments to an individual for a set period of time and can be used as an income stream for retirees.
- Self-managed superannuation funds: Small superannuation funds where the members are also the trustees (or directors of the corporate trustee). (Complaints about these funds are handled under our investments and advice area.)
Who can complain about superannuation
There are specific rules around who can make a superannuation complaint about a superannuation product. Consumers who can make such a complaint include the following:
- The person who holds the superannuation product (for example, a superannuation fund member).
- Those with an interest in a death benefit to be paid from a superannuation product.
- A person who is insured under an insurance policy held through superannuation (for example, an insured superannuation fund member)
- Parties to a Family Law agreement or order affecting superannuation.
We cannot accept complaints from members of self-managed superannuation funds about the decision and related conduct of their trustees.
We cannot accept complaints from employers on behalf of their employee members of a superannuation product.
Detailed information is available in our Rules under section B1 and Operational Guidelines and the Transitional Superannuation Guide.
Types of complaints AFCA can consider about superannuation products
- The decisions(and related conduct) of trustees of regulated superannuation funds (other than self-managed superannuation funds); trustees of approved deposit funds; life companies as providers of superannuation annuity products and providers of retirement savings accounts (RSAs) (called ‘superannuation providers’) and people acting on their behalf, including insurers for decisions (and related conduct) about insured benefits provided through superannuation
- The conduct of a life company in selling a superannuation annuity product, of an RSA provider in opening an RSA, and of an insurer in selling an insurance contract where the premiums are paid from an RSA and people acting on their behalf
- The decision of a superannuation provider to include a person’s contribution amounts in a statement provided to the Commissioner of Taxation for the purposes of determining the person’s tax liability (Corporations Act, s 1053(1)).
A decision includes making a decision and failing to make a decision. Conduct includes acts, omissions and representations.
Complaints about superannuation advice
AFCA can consider complaints about superannuation-related advice. We look to the Australian Financial Service Licence (AFSL) authorisation of the person who provided the advice to determine whether the complaint is considered under our superannuation jurisdiction or our general jurisdiction. This is because it is the AFSL holder that has primary responsibility for the advice.
- If the superannuation advice was provided under the AFSL of a superannuation provider, we will consider the complaint under our superannuation jurisdiction.
- If the superannuation advice was provided under the AFSL of a financial firm that is not a superannuation provider, we will consider the complaint under our general jurisdiction.
The main differences for these complaints are:
- A superannuation complaint is not subject to monetary limits, but we can only remedy any unfairness or unreasonableness found to exist in the superannuation provider’s decision in relation to the complaint.
- A complaint under our general jurisdiction is subject to monetary limits and we will have regard to what is fair in all the circumstances in deciding whether any compensation is payable.
Financial hardship and superannuation
If you are experiencing severe financial hardship and you want to complain to us about a decision not to release your superannuation to you, please contact us.
In a superannuation context, ‘severe financial hardship’ is a condition for early release of up to $10,000 of your superannuation benefit in a 12-month period. However, in order for a superannuation provider to pay you a part of your superannuation benefit in these circumstances, by law the superannuation provider must:
- have written evidence from Centrelink (or another relevant authority) that you were receiving Commonwealth income support payments for a continuous period of 26 weeks and were still in receipt of those payments on the date of the written evidence (which must not be more than 21 days before you applied to the superannuation provider for early release); and
- be satisfied that you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.
If you have reached your preservation age plus 39 weeks, you must have been receiving Commonwealth income support payments for a total of 39 weeks after you reached your preservation age (between 55 and 60 depending on your date of birth) and not have been gainfully employed (on either a full or part-time basis) when you applied to the superannuation provider for early release. There is no restriction on the amount you can request to withdraw in this case.
Complaints AFCA can’t consider about superannuation
AFCA can’t consider complaints about your employer’s failure to pay superannuation contributions for you. If you believe that your employer has not paid the right amount of Superannuation Guarantee contributions for you or has not made any required superannuation contributions for you at all, you should contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
There is a range of specific exclusions that apply to superannuation complaints. You can find out more by reviewing our Rules, Operational Guidelines and our Transitional Superannuation Guide or by contacting us.