Sackers predicts significant rise in Pensions Ombudsman complaints

At a webinar held this week, Sackers predicted a significant increase in complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman as members get to grips with their pensions and set out practical steps that trustees can take to minimise the impact to their own schemes.

Arshad Khan, senior counsel, commented: “2023 has been quite a year for the Pensions Ombudsman. Their investigations processes are returning to normal now, following the cyber security incident, but timescales for dealing with complaints have definitely been affected. Based on information publicly available, determinations for the first nine months of the year to September appear to show that a large majority of complaints have not been upheld (53.9%) or only partially upheld (14.8%) which is good news for trustees.”

Khan continued: “Transfers, misquotes and death benefit cases are perennial knotty areas when it comes to complaints. We would therefore encourage trustees to pay close attention to these areas in particular. For transfers, trustees should check carefully when the transfer occurred, whether the member was warned of the risks involved and sent a Scorpion leaflet and whether the transfer was statutory or non-statutory – these factors can all have a big impact on the validity of a complaint. For misquotes, trustees are encouraged to refer in the first instance to the helpful factsheet for members issued by the Pensions Ombudsman in July 2023 which sets out the key principles. And for death benefit cases, remember that the Ombudsman is not there to decide who should get a benefit but rather to ensure that trustees have followed the right processes.”

Khan concluded: “Tricky situations will inevitably arise but if trustees have a good understanding of the underlying principles which the Pensions Ombudsman will use when assessing any complaint, they will be much better placed to minimise the impact on their scheme.”

To watch the webinar in full, click here.