TPO found that there had been no maladministration where a member had missed an opportunity to transfer as a result of failing to forward his post and / or to provide the scheme with his new address.
Before conducting the “Time to Choose” exercise, the scheme’s trustees instructed a member tracing firm to ensure that the addresses they held for members were up to date. In Mr S’s case, the trace matched him to the address held by the scheme.
On 2 October 2017, the trustees wrote to Mr S and explained the options available to him under the “Time to Choose” exercise. This letter enclosed an option form. The option form offered the choice of remaining within the current scheme or transferring to a new scheme. The deadline for responses was 11 December 2017.
Mr S went abroad during November 2017 and was outside of the UK until 8 March 2018.
More correspondence, including reminders and additional option forms were sent to Mr S between November 2017 and 23 January 2018.
The deadline for responses to the option exercise came to an end on 22 December 2017 (following an extension). The trustees wrote to Mr S to explain that, as they had not received a completed form, he would remain within the scheme, which would be moving to the PPF.
On 29 March 2018, Mr S received his first payment since moving to the PPF. As his pension decreased, he contacted the scheme. At this point he expressed a desire to transfer to the new scheme and complained that he had not received any correspondence about his benefits, despite having been in receipt of them for two years. It transpired that Mr S had rented out his property and the tenant had not forwarded any of his correspondence to him. Mr S also confirmed that he had not provided the scheme with his new address.
Having gone through the scheme’s IDRP, Mr S complained to TPO.
He concluded that there had been no maladministration.
TPO was satisfied that the trustees had acted prudently when they cross-referenced Mr S’s address using the tracing firm.
Given that Mr S relied on his scheme benefits to form an important part of his income, TPO would have expected him to have ensured that his address was kept up to date. It was also his responsibility to ensure that any important post would be sent to him.
With regards to Mr S’s argument that no one should be allowed to change where his benefits were being paid from without his permission, TPR noted that the source of his benefits had not changed. While TPO understood Mr S’s “frustration at a reduction in his benefits”, he did not find the trustees responsible for Mr S missing the opportunity to transfer and did not agree that there had been maladministration.
Complaint not upheld.
This case should be a comfort to trustees undertaking communication exercises, particularly at the moment when many members may not be residing in their usual addresses.