The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has been able to close some of their backlog of superannuation complaints because of an overall reduction last financial year.
Speaking at the AFCA member forum, Heather Gray, lead ombudsman for superannuation, said 5,249 new superannuation complaints were received while 6,214 complaints were closed.
“We’re happy to report that about one-third of our complaints are actually resolved at the registration and referral stage, with an average time to close a complaint of 116 days,” Gray said.
Superannuation account issues made up the lion’s share of product complaints with 2,717 total complaints, followed by disability (978), income protection (833), death benefit (453) and pension product complaints (52).
In terms of member issues, delays in claim handling topped the list with 856 total complaints, a phenomenon that had not changed since 2016.
Following claim delays was denial of claim (517), service quality (517), account administration error (487) and incorrect fee complaints (419).
Gray said only 619 cases came through to the final decision stage.
“So happily, we're able to see that the vast majority of our complaints do resolve in an earlier stage of our process, either at registration or during the case management process or on receipt of a preliminary assessment,” Gray said.
According to Gray, AFCA was reviewing its approach to superannuation fees and charges and superannuation death benefit complaints.
“So that's coming off the back of quite a large project that we've had internally looking at all of the different issues that arise in death benefit complaints and there are many as you will appreciate it's a very sensitive and complex area that we deal with,” she said.
Gray said AFCA would be issuing a spousal relationship information request form.
“We do find that with a lot of complainants and joined parties to death benefit complaints, that they can be quite confused and unsure about what actually constitutes a spousal relationship.
She said the form would ask questions which follow the factors it considers when deciding whether somebody was a spouse, based on the case law that it followed.
Finally, Gray said AFCA would publish external dispute resolution response guides to its website and portal, which would cover death benefit distribution, claim decline and claim delay.