If you have a complaint against a retirement fund, you need to approach the fund’s principal officer or board of trustees before taking your complaint to the Pension Funds Adjudicator.
This was the lesson learned by Ms J, when her complaint was dismissed first by the adjudicator and then by the Financial Services Tribunal.
Ntokozo Ngubane, a banking and financial services lawyer at Norton Rose Fulbright, writes in the law firm’s Financial Institutions Legal Snapshots newsletter, that the Pension Funds Act, requires you to lodge a written complaint with the retirement fund for consideration by the board, which must be properly considered and responded to within 30 days. Should you be dissatisfied with the decision of the board, Ngubane says, you may then lodge a complaint with the office of the Pension Funds Adjudicator, but only if this route has been followed.
He says Ms J lodged a complaint with the office of the adjudicator relating to a delay in the finalisation of a distribution of death benefits. The adjudicator dismissed the complaint on the basis that Ms J had failed to lodge a complaint with the board of trustees challenging the distribution and allocation of the benefits.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the pension funds adjudicator, Ms J lodged an application for reconsideration before the Financial Services Tribunal. The tribunal summarily dismissed Ms J’s application for reconsideration on the following basis:
1. The application was filed out of the prescribed timeline;
2. The relevant beneficiaries were not cited; and
3. The tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to hear the matter, given that she did not formally lodge a complaint with the board of trustees. Consequently, if the adjudicator could not adjudicate the complaint, the same applied to the tribunal.
“The decision emphasises that individuals who are aggrieved by decisions of a fund must first seek recourse with the fund and then escalate the complaint to the office of the pension funds adjudicator. This provides funds with an opportunity to resolve the issue internally. Where this route is not followed it could result in matters that were capable of resolution at fund level being needlessly attended to by the dispute forums,” Ngubane said.