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The top ten pension scheme complaints

The Pensions Ombudsman publishes annual statistics on their case-load over the previous year. The statistics include information showing the proportion of their cases relating to a number of listed topics.

More detailed analysis of these statistics in the previous year has caused a shift in the top ten most complained about topics. Previously the highest proportion of complaints accepted by the Ombudsman for investigation related to awards/or lack of awards of ill health pensions, or other benefits awarded early due to ill health. 

This year the top ten are as follows:

  1. Benefits: incorrect, missing, paid late or not at all – 14.7%
  2. Misquote/Misinformation – 12.2%
  3. Ill health – 10.4%
  4. Failure to provide information/act on instructions – 7.6%
  5. Death benefits – 7.4%
  6. Recovery of overpayments – 6.1%
  7. Transfers – 6%
  8. Interpretation of scheme rules or policy terms – 5.5%
  9. Administration – 4.9%
  10. Pensions liberation – 4.9%

A new entry at number ten

There was a new entry at number ten for pensions liberation which amounted to 4.9% of the total complaints. The Ombudsman has confirmed that the majority of these relate to situations where a transfer out to a scheme has been blocked due to the pension provider assessing that the transferee scheme may be used for pensions liberation. It is notable that all of these complaints were by members against personal pension providers and, as yet, there have been none relating to blocked transfers from occupational pension schemes. 

None of these complaints have been determined so far due to their complexity and the extra information that the Ombudsman has had to seek in relation to the transferring and receiving schemes. The Ombudsman notes that these complaints are expected to be determined this autumn. These determinations, given the increased focus on pensions liberation, are expected to be invaluable for pensions providers and trustees in giving guidance on when they can properly prevent a transfer which a member wishes to proceed with.

It has also been confirmed that no complaints have been received yet in relation to or resulting directly from the auto-enrolment regime.

Generally the Ombudsman has seen a steady increase in the number of complaints it receives year on year. During 2013/14 it has seen a marked increase, accepting 1,058 complaints from a total of over 3,300 enquiries received.

The Pensions Ombudsman also acts as the Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman and has over the year received 60 complaints in relation to the Pension Protection Fund in its own right and as the manager of the Financial Assistance Scheme.

Author: Vicki Thomas

This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.

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Colin Greig

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I am a Partner specialising in pensions law.