Superannuation funds are about to encounter what financial planning firms have been experiencing for decades under the old Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and have warned the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) that using raw complaints data could give misleading impressions.
Amid moves by AFCA to launch a comparative complaints reporting regime, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) urged that any such data be accompanied by material educating stakeholders on how it should be interpreted “to avoid inferences that may cause unwarranted reputational damage to individual superannuation trustees and to the sector in general”.
In a submission filed with AFCA, ASFA said it was important to avoid an undue focus on the raw number of complaints accepted by AFCA for a financial firm during a reporting period.
“While the raw complaints data is a relevant indicator of the level of activity flowing through AFCA — and thereby achieves an objective of RG 267 — it is not a meaningful indicator of the external dispute resolution (EDR) ‘performance’ of any superannuation trustee and does little to inform consumers’ decision making about superannuation products they may hold currently or may consider acquiring,” the submission said.
The ASFA submission claimed that superannuation fund members might make complaints to their fund trustee for a number of reasons and might choose to use external dispute resolution (EDR) because it came without cost but argued that a significant proportion of cases were likely to favour the superannuation fund rather than the complainant.
“An undue focus on the raw number of complaints accepted by AFCA for individual superannuation trustees may, in ASFA’s view, create a misleading impression of the performance of those trustees,” it said. “It also risks potentially causing unwarranted reputational damage to those trustees and to the sector more broadly.”
“Accordingly, ASFA strongly encourages AFCA to ensure that messaging accompanying the initial and ongoing release of its comparative tables draws appropriate focus to the outcomes adjusted data and avoids highlighting raw complaints data.”