Ms N (PO-22236) (PO orders transfer where provider delay caused unauthorised payment)


TPO upheld Ms N’s complaint that her transfer had not taken place when it should have done because of acts and omissions by her pension provider. Had this delay not occurred, Ms N’s transfer could have been made while the receiving scheme was still on HMRC’s QROPS list.

Facts

On 7 April 2016, Ms N contacted her pension provider to request transfer paperwork so that she could transfer her pension to Canada (her place of residence).

The provider issued documentation to the receiving scheme, which the receiving scheme completed. It also advised the receiving scheme that the information would be processed no later than 21 July 2016.

However, on 25 July 2016, the provider called the receiving scheme to advise that the transfer would not take place due to the suspension of transfers from its property funds (in which Ms N was invested). It did not have a timescale for the length of the suspension. (The provider’s right to delay in buying, selling or switching units was set out in the members’ explanatory booklet.)

Ms N complained.

The provider agreed that it had provided her with a poor level of service and that, had it not caused any delay, the transfer would have taken place on 13 June 2016.

The suspension was lifted on 4 November 2016. By this point TPAS was involved.

The provider confirmed that it would transfer the fund value as at 13 June 2016, and would contact the receiving scheme to calculate if there had been a financial loss once the transfer had been made.

The receiving scheme was removed from HMRC’s QROPS list on 1 November 2016. This meant the transfer would be an unauthorised payment for the purposes of the FA04 and subject to tax charges. As no Canadian schemes were on the list there was no possible alternative receiving scheme.

Under the rules of the scheme, the provider could not now make a transfer as it has no power to make an unauthorised payment or to make a non-statutory transfer (a statutory transfer can only be made to a registered pension scheme or a QROPS).

On 28 February 2018, the receiving scheme confirmed what the value of Ms N’s fund would have been had it received the transfer on 13 June 2016.

On 6 April 2018, the provider let TPAS know that it did not believe there was an obvious outcome to Ms N’s complaint or situation. This was because there was a known investment loss, but the provider did not know what this loss might be when Ms N came to take her benefits. As a result, the provider felt it would be best if the case was investigated by TPO, with a view to reaching an agreement that way.

Determination

TPO noted that it was “undisputed” that the provider had caused delays which amounted to maladministration and, as a result, Ms N had suffered a loss.

He explained that, in his role as TPO, he has the power to order the provider to transfer Ms N’s funds out of the scheme and that a transfer made in accordance with his directions, while still an unauthorised payment, is exempt from being scheme chargeable. However, Ms N would still be liable to the unauthorised payments charge and the provider should cover this as it resulted directly from the delay in the transfer.

Should the provider consider itself unable to follow a direction to effect Ms N’s transfer, TPO stated that it should pay the required sum from its own funds into the receiving scheme in lieu of transferring Ms N’s funds.

TPO considered that the “long duration of the delay” would have contributed greatly to Ms N’s general distress and inconvenience and directed the provider to pay Ms N a total of £1,000 in compensation for this (some payments had already been made).

With regards to the suspension of transactions, TPO noted that the provider was entitled to do this, but that the suspension of the property fund would not have prevented the transfer from taking place had it not been for the provider’s delay in effecting the transfer.