Need to know
- Super Consumers Australia, a partnership with CHOICE, officially launched on 25 September
- The group offers an independent consumer voice to counter a number of well-resourced and established industry lobby groups
- Speakers outlined how Super Consumers Australia could develop valuable expertise through casework and working directly with super members
Guests from across the super industry, public interest advocacy, financial counselling, law and journalism gathered at Woolloomooloo Bay Hotel in Sydney on Wednesday to celebrate the official launch of Super Consumers Australia, an independent organisation partnering with CHOICE.
The organisation received funding for the first time in 2018 and aims to change Australia's superannuation system through advocacy, independent research and investigative journalism.
Speakers on the night included Delia Rickard, deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
She outlined the long road to establishing an independent consumer advocate in this space, colourfully likening its birth to "the gestation of several herds of elephants".
Rickard said that there was a need for clear, practical advice that breaks through the "confusopoly" that is the current system. "Super is complex and difficult…there is not a real richness of consumer information," she explained.
Rickard also paid tribute to the tireless work put in by consumer advocate Jenni Mack towards establishing an independent advocacy group for super.
Mack outlined how her experience had convinced her of the pressing need for such a body. She explained that summits on superannuation had inevitably been dominated by industry voices with often just a lone consumer representative in the room.
Both the productivity commission and the royal commission into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services industry also recognised a need for a consumer advocate, she said.
Gerard Brody, chair of Consumers Federation Australia, made the point that superannuation is an example of a highly complex consumer product that affects almost every Australian.
He said he saw a clear role for Super Consumers Australia in developing specialist expertise in this space through casework and direct consultation with consumers. This would be helpful to both industry and regulators in establishing community expectations for the $2.9 trillion sector, he added.
CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland closed out the formal proceedings, noting that Super Consumers was a rare example of an advocacy body that had secured support from both the Rudd/Gillard and Morrison governments – a feat he attributed to "persistent, calm and rational advocacy".
He highlighted a recently published story on the large numbers of Australians still being defaulted into laggard MySuper products as an example of the kind of advocacy that only a well-funded and independent advocacy body can provide.
Guests also enjoyed the Monopoly-themed posters, which highlighted ongoing problems in super such as underperforming funds, junk insurance, duplicate accounts and the difficulty of comparing funds.
Super Consumers Australia will continue to work on these issues and more, all with the aim of ensuring that the retirement savings of all Australians are managed efficiently and fairly.