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Superannuation funds are not prioritising the interests of their members and some have taken advantage of vulnerable consumers, the banking royal commission has heard.

Barristers assisting the inquiry say many super fund members are disengaged and disadvantaged by a lack of financial literacy.

“They are readily able to be taken advantage of,” senior counsel assisting the commission Michael Hodge QC said.

Commissioner Kenneth Hayne QC may conclude that the evidence suggests this has occurred in some cases, Mr Hodge said on Friday at the end of a two-week hearing into Australia’s $2.6 trillion superannuation industry.

Mr Hodge said the disengagement of members may limit the effectiveness of competition and there are questions about the effectiveness of the regulation of the sector.

An important issue was registrable superannuation entities (RSEs) complying with their fiduciary obligations, Mr Hodge told Mr Hayne.

“What the evidence as a whole suggests is that it may well be the case that you will conclude that some RSE licencees are not, as they are obliged to do, prioritising the interests of their members over the interests of others, including themselves and the groups of which they are parties.”

Mr Hodge pointed to members paying fees for financial advice they did not receive and the continued charging of “grandfathered” commissions.

He said there were delays in moving default contributions to a low-fee MySuper product after law changes, one apparent effect being to entrench members for a longer period of time in legacy products with trailing commissions.

He also said there was a potential failure to exercise proper oversight of the distribution channels of a trustee’s super products by related parties.

“Those decisions may be ones which do not demonstrate a sufficient prioritisation, or any prioritisation, of the interests of the members over the interests of the trustee or parties related to the trustee.”

During his comments on policy issues arising out of the hearing, Mr Hodge suggested consumers be attached to a single superannuation account and not end up with new accounts each time they change jobs.

The Productivity Commission estimated Australians are paying $2.6 billion in excess fees and insurance premiums every year on extra superannuation accounts they have been given when changing jobs.

It found a third of accounts, or about 10 million, are unintended multiples.