Tawhiri had worked in the same industry his entire life and contributed to an industry superannuation scheme. In the early 2000s, Tawhiri retired. However, in 2020, Tawhiri contacted his local community law centre because he had no recollection of ever being paid his superannuation entitlements from the scheme. He recalled being told at the time he retired that he needed to sign a form giving his permission for the fund withdrawal to be processed, but could not remember ever signing the form.
The law centre contacted the scheme and asked them to provide documentation to prove they paid Tawhiri his funds. The scheme provided some information but, because Tawhiri had retired 18 years ago, it no longer held full records from that time. The scheme also said they had incurred costs of approximately $1,500 in obtaining that information and that, if Tawhiri wanted them to try and obtain further evidence, he would have to pay them $1,500.
The law centre then complained to FSCL on Tawhiri’s behalf.
In Tawhiri’s view, the scheme should have been doing more to obtain better evidence that he was paid his funds. Tawhiri also said he shouldn’t need to pay $1,500 for the scheme to carry out this work.
The scheme said they were unable to provide any further evidence than they’d already given Tawhiri, being:
a) records showing a withdrawal from Tawhiri’s scheme account in 2002, and
b) confirmation that Tawhiri’s member number was no longer active in their system in 2003.
The scheme said this evidence indicated it was highly likely Tawhiri was paid out his benefits from the scheme at the time he retired. The scheme also confirmed they had been unable to obtain a copy of any form Tawhiri signed to authorise the fund withdrawal, or bank records to show the bank account the funds were paid into.
We said it was reasonable that the scheme did not hold any further evidence to prove that Tawhiri received his funds from the scheme, because organisations are not required to retain client records for 18 years. Similarly, it was highly unlikely the scheme’s bank, or Tawhiri’s bank, would still retain records from 18 years ago.
We suggested Tawhiri check whether he had retained paper bank account statements from the time he retired. This appeared to be the only way he could obtain definitive evidence showing payment from the scheme into his bank account.
In any event, we agreed with the scheme that the available evidence (showing a withdrawal from Tawhiri’s scheme account in 2002, and there being no further record of his member number after then), indicated it was more likely than not that the payment was made to Tawhiri.
However, we told the scheme that they should not have asked Tawhiri to pay $1,500 so they could search for further evidence. Under FSCL’s terms of reference, FSCL participants must not charge complainants a fee to have their complaint investigated though the participant’s internal complaints process, or through FSCL. We said that the scheme’s request was tantamount to Tawhiri paying to have his complaint investigated through the scheme’s internal complaints process, being a breach of our terms of reference.
Tawhiri accepted there was no further evidence that the scheme could provide to definitively prove he received his entitlements, and he discontinued his complaint.
Insights for participants
This complaint is a timely reminder to FSCL participants that they cannot charge complainants fees to investigate complaints through their internal complaints processes, or if the complainant brings their complaint to FSCL.