Australia

Australians urged to check 'zombie' superannuation ahead of reforms

New reforms will mop up 10 million unintended multiple super accounts, says Sally Loane. (AAP)

Australians have been urged to check their superannuation in case they are affected by changes from July 1.

Imminent changes targeting millions of "zombie" superannuation accounts will help protect Australians' retirement savings but some people risk losing their insurance cover in the process.

Reforms from July 1 are designed to stop superannuation savings being eaten away by inappropriate fees and insurance premiums while reuniting Australians with forgotten accounts containing low balances.

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Financial Services Council CEO Sally Loane said the reforms aim to mop up 10 million unintended multiple accounts, which the Productivity Commission found were being eroded by $2.6 billion in unnecessary fees and insurance premiums a year.

"These are accounts that are lying there like zombies getting eaten up by fees and charges and insurance," she told AAP.

The industry has warned Australians to check if they are affected by the reforms, believing many people may not realise the life insurance provided through their superannuation will be cancelled on accounts that have not received contributions for 16 months.

People with inactive accounts must tell their fund they want to keep the insurance, or make a contribution.

"The unintended consequence is that somebody tries to make a claim on insurance, whether it's life insurance or some form of accident insurance, after July 1 and they may find that they no longer have insurance cover," Ms Loane said.

The Productivity Commission found a third of super accounts were unintended multiples after people changed jobs and many members' retirement balances were eroded by duplicate policies or zombie insurance they are unable to claim on.

Ms Loane said individuals may decide they do not want life insurance with their super.

She noted accounts could become inactive for numerous reasons such as ceasing employment, taking extended parental leave or going on sick leave.

She said the time between someone first being unable to work due to illness and becoming eligible to make a total and permanent disability claim can be much longer than 16 months.

"It would be a disastrous outcome if, through inaction in the next few days, someone allowed their cover to be cancelled shortly before they become eligible for a TPD claim, and are no longer insurable due to their deteriorating health."

The government's reforms also involve the transfer of inactive accounts with balances under $6000 to the Australian Taxation Office, which will consolidate the money into a member's active account.

The ATO has estimated about $6 billion will be returned to three million people in the first year.

The reforms also ban exit fees for moving money from a superannuation account and cap the fees charged on accounts holding less than $6,000 at three per cent a year.

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