Lost Super Because Provider Changed Account Holders Address without Authorisation

Hi All,

Asking for a friend, that friend is my Mum, and I've actually submitted the complaint on her behalf, but you know - a friend. Basically i wanted to rant somewhere, and looking for opinions. Apologies for the long story, but its worth a read.

TLDR:

Mum had a number of active super accounts in the early 2000's, and requested for one of them to consolidate. They missed one, because the address on that account was changed 1 year earlier to some random address (not my mums doing, but provider A are arguing it was), and only realised it was missed 10 years later when notified by ATO of lost super. As a result, mum has paid $7k in fees to this provider, and lost roughly $14k of investment income had it have transferred over to Provider B. The provider A won't admit their fault and has made a good will gesture to refund half the fees paid during the term.

So backstory:

  • My mother had a super account, we'll call it "Provider A" with attached Life Insurance policy opened in the early 90's.
  • In 2005 mum made a phone call to withdraw $X to pay for something
  • In 2006, mum started a new job with a health care company, and was required to open a superannuation account with Provider B. Mum was prompted to, and completed required paperwork to transfer all other super accounts from previous providers (she had a few, who doesn't!)
  • In 2016 mum received a letter from the ATO advising of a lost super account, with Provider A.
  • Mum called Provider A, which they advised yes she still has an account, but her address is different to what she gave them. Somewhere over 1000km away from where mum has lived for ~40 years. Mum and Dad have owned and lived in the same house from 1983 to 2018, and have never lived elsewhere, nor advised anyone of a change of address (until they removed into their new home in 2018).
  • Provider A advised mum that on the same day she withdrew $X, she also changed her address. The address is changed on our system on the same day, so you must have changed it. They cannot provide a voice recording because it was forever ago. All statements were sent to this new address,
  • Mum immediately transferred the balance from Provider A to Provider B.

Basically, Provider B didn't find the super account with Provider A, because the address differed to those provided by my mother. Mum didn't check with the new provider to make sure each of the previous accounts were transferred over, she probably should have - but like 90% of Australians, she didn't completely understand super, and isn't super financially literate. However she never received any annual statements from any of the previous providers after that date, so assumed (incorrectly) that they were all transitioned across.

As a result, mum's money remained in the account with Provider B, growing at <3% (terrible investment product), and having extremely high insurance premiums being taken out (between $400 in 2005 to $2000 in 2016, yep it grew at 20% p.a. during this time, because every year it went up, the letters advising of the change were sent to the new address). Anyway, the closing balance in 2016 was significantly lower than the balance in 2005.

We have complained to Provider A, asking for at least the premiums paid over that time to be refunded (~$7k), on the basis we didnt know the account was still open as mum never received any statements, as they changed her address. They argue that Mum must have changed the address, they wouldn't have changed it otherwise, and therefore it's her fault.

I have calculated, if mum had have moved the balance of that super into Provider A, the FV, less the PV, after the investment returns is approx $14k, thats the amount mum has lost because Provider A changed her address.

In addition, according to RP data, the address that Mum's account was changed to, the ownership changed within a couple of months of when mum "changed her address" with Provider A. I've provided this information to Provider A. We believe the person who owned this property also has/had an account with and called Provider A to change their address, and they accidentally changed mum's profile instead

Since then, we've made a complaint to the Super Complaints Tribunal, and Provider A has made an offer of half the premiums paid in this time ~$3,500, as a gesture of goodwill, as no-one can prove mum didnt change her address, so they won't admit fault. Note - mum doesnt even know the town that the address was changed to, so theres no way she could have, let alone would have changed her address to there. They have argued that mum should have followed up that all accounts were transferred, so she has to take some ownership, which i agree - however as she never received another statement, she was deprived of any future opportunity to rectify the missed account, which she undoubtedly would have done if she received her annual statement from Provider A in 2006.

Anyway, i've rejected their offer of $3,500, and are standing by the full $14,000.

Does the crowd think our claim is justified, or should we accept their gesture of good will?

Poll Options

  • 32
    Yes, push for the full $14k, Provider A has clearly made an error
  • 10
    No, accept the $3,500 good will gesture - both parties fault
  • 2
    Mum fully at fault, go home mum
  • 23
    I didnt want to read the wall of text.

Comments

  • +1 vote

    This is an interesting case which will ultimately be up to the tribunals (and the courts, should you wish to take it that far). However, your line

    Mum didn't check with the new provider to make sure each of the previous accounts were transferred over, she probably should have - but like 90% of Australians, she didn't completely understand super, and isn't super financially literate.

    really says it all. Both you and your mum know that it's her responsibility to make sure that it was transferred over correctly and it's ultimately also her fault that she does not understand super and is not financially literate.

    There's a lot more complex issues at play here because nobody has tried to scam your mum. In other words, I don't see a benefit to anybody for having let this happen.

    Basically, Provider B didn't find the super account with Provider A, because the address differed to those provided by my mother.

    So how did the address differ? Is this because she provided the wrong address or they used the wrong address by themselves? I'd think this is the central point of any case you're trying to make.

    •  

      Provider B asked mum to list all previous addresses, so they could identify and consolidate. She provided the only address she has ever lived at, on in Northern NSW.

      Provider B transferred all supers identified from that address.

      Provider A changed the address on mum's super to one in Western Sydney. Mum never made a request to Provider A to change her address.

      Agree, certainly mum's responsibility - however if her address wasn't changed in error by Provider A, they would have sent her a statement the next year, and mum would have thought oops, missed one! Contacted her provider B to transfer that one too. She never received another statement from Provider A.

  •  

    How did you come up with $14k?

    The compensation calculation is very very complex, I have seen how it's done, and there are a lot of moving parts.

    There are movements in unit prices almost daily.

    •  

      Loss = FV - PV

      FV = PV x (1+r)^n

      I've used the PV being the balance in 2005, the rate being 10 year historical average growth rate provided by provider B. n is the 10 years in question.

      Can probably calculate it using day unit prices, but the average is just as relevant

      • +1 vote

        Yes, however, I question how much of this is because you've actually lost money. Be honest, if you actually had gained money from their mistake and they came after you, would you willingly give up the money?

        •  

          Certainly. My parents are very honest people. I probably would fight it, but they wouldnt. I do recall a time money was transferred to my mums bank account in error. She went to the bank to work it out and return it… crazy, but I imagine that would be the case here too

  •  

    I think you should counter offer $5k. A lot of people ignore super paperwork and administrivia. The downstream calculated losses aren't realistic, in my opinion. I look at my own super and think how much more I would have had if I consolidated earlier. I did triple check when rolling over, though.

    •  

      Yeah agreed - i asked around the office here (financial institution) and the majority reckon they have no idea what they're super is doing, or if they even have others out there.

      I might counter, but again, if they didn't change her address, this mess never would have been an issue, its kinda hard to let that go, on principal.

      •  

        I like that you are pursuing whether the account address was someone else's. I would ask for a formal statement about that. Maybe they will hide behind privacy laws but it's worth pursuing if they claim it was your mum's address for more than a decade.

        About the $14K claim, that is pretty much the provider's worst case scenario. What is the benefit for them to settle for that amount? Court costs?

        •  

          I think they’ll hide behind privacy for now (nice for that person, Provider A had no issue sending them my mothers details for 10 years).

          I’d imagine court costs are at least $14k for a big financier, but I also imagine they have teams of remediation and legal professionals on payroll since the royal commission came into play…

  •  

    IMO, but for Provider A's error in incorrectly changing mum's address in 2005, none of mum's loss/damage would have happened. Therefore I would continue to push for the full loss/damage you have calculated she is entitled to.

    I also highly doubt Provider A's process for changing an address on file would have been just be making a phone call to them. It is not up to your mum to prove she didn't change her address, it is up to them to prove she did.

    FWIW my address was once changed by one of the share registries when they got a letter from someone with the same first and last name as me (very common names), so the sort of mistake you believe was made does happen.

    •  

      Completely agree. I actually worked for a stockbroker for many years. I’ve actually bought and sold shares on peoples accounts in error, because I still had their account open from the previous phone call… mistakes happen, we all know it. Likely was easier in 2005… it’s more plausible than someone changing their address to somewhere random…

  • +2 votes

    I would stick to this at least

    asking for at least the premiums paid over that time to be refunded (~$7k),

    But if you get that, I would consider taking it. The lost returns is harder to argue and they will fight harder against it I imagine.

    Can you drown them in paperwork proving she has not moved ? e.g. copies of utilities bills; copies of notice of assessment from the ATO; banks statements; car insurance; basically every bit of paperwork you can find from anywhere as far back as you can go – could black out sensitive details and just demonstrate she has been getting mail from X number of places at her current address for as far back as you can go so there is no reasonable explanation for why she would just change her super to a random address.

    In addition, according to RP data, the address that Mum's account was changed to, the ownership changed within a couple of months of when mum "changed her address" with Provider A. I've provided this information to Provider A. We believe the person who owned this property also has/had an account with and called Provider A to change their address, and they accidentally changed mum's profile instead

    Have you written to this person? You could send them a registered letter to ask them if they do have an account with that provider, and / or if they are willing to do a stat dec saying she hasn’t lived there. They have clearly been throwing her mail in the trash for years instead of returning to sender. (Although there is a chance I guess the owner has been renting it out to other people)

    •  

      Nah that person has since sold their house in western Sydney, dunno where they moved to… otherwise I would have driven out there to chat!

      I’ve actually offered to provide statutory declaration, for whatever that’s worth… but drowning in paperwork is a reasonable idea too!

      Yeah we won’t accept anything less than the premiums… but for now, it’s still hard to stomach the loss (my parents aren’t well off), all because they made a mistake. More to come…

  •  

    Unrelated Question: Can anyone explain to me what I can do with my super or link me to an informative guide? For the last few years, all my workplaces have just been like "Sign up with us, we invest your money". Is there a way I can control where the funds are invested etc

    OP should push for 14K.

    •  

      Is there a way…it's your inalienable right. Choose one you like, set it up, roll over and nominate it to your employer and they must use it for you. As a baseline, the industry superfunds are pretty good. It's a shame they aren't the default for everyone.

    •  

      The easiest way (although not necessarily the best way) is to talk with the super provider where your contributions are currently going. They will be able to consolidate all other accounts to the one you have with them. This will at least get everything in the one spot.

      As I've hinted at, this may not be the best answer. For many reasons that are too voluminous to go into here, the best option may to be consolidate to another of your past funds, keep more than one account open, or consolidate to an entirely new fund. As ever, the decision rests on your investment and insurance requirements, various product features that are desirable for you, any insurances in existence that you wish to maintain, etc. There is no simple, one size fits all answer to this.

  • +2 votes

    I thought it was based on your TFN number? My husband has moved about 7 times in the past and doesnt even remember the addresses, but he recently consolidated and found one from ages ago that he forgot about.

  • +2 votes

    Sounds like an honest mistake on both sides.

    I think it'd be fair if they returned any "profit" they made off of the mistake, while you suck up any "lost earnings potential". It'd be different if you could prove they deliberately tried to defraud you, or if they could prove she most definitely did change the address and had proof to back it up.

  •  

    thats the amount mum has lost because Provider A changed her address.

    No, thats the amount lost becuase your mum did not check her statement to ensure it transferred.

    •  

      Somewhat correct, but i stand by the fact that if they didn't change the address, one of two things would have occurred:
      1. the account would have transferred without issue
      2. mum would have received a statement within 12 months showing the account still active.

      Worst case here, the amount lost due to mum not checking her statement is the growth on PV for ~1yr

  •  

    Definitely a tough one. Because I would say a fair bit of those fees would be insurance fees. I don't think you would be complaining if something happened to your mother and they paid out the life insurance.

    •  

      Correct, huge chunk was insurance. FYI their insurance premiums grew at 18% p.a. Which is outrageous. Anyway…

      That’s what the Provider A complaints manager told me. “If you mother passed away, you could have claimed on the policy”.

      My response was we didn’t know about the policy, let alone claim on it, but she said when you eventually found out from the ATO, you could have then claimed.

      I’ve since reviewed the PDS, turns out you can only claim on one life policy, and by then we would have already claimed on the policy with Provider B… so yeah in theory correct, had she not have had another policy… but she had 2, one of which was redundant!

      I wonder how many people unknowingly have multiple supers paying crazy insurance premiums?

      • +1 vote

        Not 100% sure on this but usually you can claim as many life insurance's as you want. It's the income protection that you can only claim once.

  •  

    Take the offer! As has been mentioned above most of the cost has been insurance premiums.This will be a separate company to the superannuation fund. The superannuation fund is unlikely to wear the cost of this. If mum had of died or become TPD you would have been very thankful for the cover. Would you have been happy for the superannuation fund to turn around and say "well Mum had tried to close the fund and therefore we will keep the insurance proceeds".

    Trust me there will be lot of upset people after 1 July this year when insurances are automatically cancelled where a contribution hasn't been received in the past 16 months.

    In all my years I have only ever come across 1 insurance policy for life & TPD where it won't paid due to other life policies. Income protection will usually have an offset clause.

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