Super fund complaints swell for AFCA

10 January 2024
| By Laura Dew |
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Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) chief operating officer Justin Untersteiner has told Super Review there was an “enormous increase” in complaints regarding superannuation funds in 2023.

The organisation reported it had seen over 100,000 complaints in 2023 for the first time and there had been a 20 per cent rise in the number of these relating to delays in claims handling. Some 10,692 complaints were reported to AFCA regarding this issue, second only to complaints about unauthorised transactions.

Many of these related to super and insurance in super, the organisation said.

Speaking to Super Review, Untersteiner said: “Super and insurance make up the complaints regarding delays in claims handling, there has been an enormous increase in complaints against super trustees and top of that was complaints about delays in claim handling.

“We are encouraging trustees to review this as lengthy delays aren’t fair on consumers.”

In November, Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones called on super funds to lift their game and make material, meaningful changes to their processes and there was action taken by ASIC against TelstraSuper for failing to comply with internal dispute resolutions requirement. 

He told 2GB Sydney: “I started saying to the funds, ‘This isn’t good enough. You’ve all got to lift your game.’ You’ve got 12 months to lift your game. And if you don’t meet the appropriate standard, then there’ll be regulatory standards.

“The sort of action that is being imposed upon TelstraSuper by the ASIC at the moment, where they’re being prosecuted for not meeting even the existing standards in relation to dealing with member complaints, we want to ensure that the regulators have the appropriate stick and the appropriate tools available.”

At the end of 2023, AustralianSuper opted to insource its complaints handling among several changes to its claims management process. This includes insourcing its death claims management through a new Bereavement Centre, while also implementing additional complaints handling capability by the end of the financial year. 

The establishment of a dedicated Bereavement Centre will leverage the specialist expertise of the fund’s internal team and ensure members’ savings are paid to their loved ones efficiently, AustralianSuper said. This change followed AustralianSuper’s decision to transition to a new claims assessment model with its insurer TAL in 2022.

Untersteiner commented: “We are working closely with the largest trustees and are seeing changes, but it will take time. We have seen one fund insource its complaints and that could be a positive move, but we will be watching it closely. 

“The industry is trying to improve, but the proof will be in the pudding.”

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