Fund SCT to deliver speedier decisions – law firm

Delays of up to 12 months for the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) to deal with a total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance claim are unacceptable, particularly for the workers involved, according to plaintiff law firm, Maurice Blackburn.

The law firm has used a submission to the Government's review of financial services external disputes resolution to point to the time delays within the SCT and to compare the time frames involved where workers compensation claims are concerned.

It also noted the fact that superannuation fund members were not automatically entitled to use legal representation when appearing before the SCT and needed to seek the permission of the tribunal.

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"But obviously the superannuation fund, the financial services provider, or the insurer will have lawyers advising them, and likely have lawyers representing them," the submission said.

It also pointed to the SCT taking up to 12 months to conduct a review, noting that "For working people with a TPD claim, they typically are unable to wait 12 months, let alone 12 weeks given the stretched financial situation they will be in".

"By contrast, the insurer or superannuation fund is able to wait years, and are often happy to do so," the submission said, adding that, by contrast, most workers compensation schemes required a decision within weeks despite the TPD claims often involving similar types of injuries.

The law firm's submission also noted that the SCT lacked the power to remedy complaints about the design of a fund and was unable to exercise its power in a way contrary to the relevant trust deed or insurance policy.

"Given Maurice Blackburn's experience with a range of extraordinary failures by insurers, it is frustrating to think that a well-functioning EDR [external dispute resolution] scheme could deal with repeated poor behaviour and not have any mechanisms to address behaviour in a regulatory or systemic sense," it said. "To that end, the SCT ought to report systemic failings to ASIC [Australian Securities and Investments Commission] for investigation, as is the case for FOS [Financial Ombudsman Service] and the CIO [chief investment officer]."

The submission expressed the strong view that the SCT Government related model was preferable to the EDR model underpinning the Financial Ombudsman Service but noted "such a forum must be adequately funded, which the SCT has evidently not been for many years — if ever".

"We believe aspects of the user pays levy, which incentivises good industry conduct, can and ought to be applied to the Government regulated model," it said.

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