'One-stop' pensions dispute resolution process to be introduced from April

Out-Law News | 16 Feb 2018 | 11:27 am | 1 min. read

Changes to the pension dispute resolution process will come into force in April, making the process simpler for consumers.

Currently, consumers should refer complaints about their pension to the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) if they have not exhausted the scheme's internal dispute resolution procedure, and to the Pensions Ombudsman if they have exhausted the scheme's internal dispute resolution procedure.

From 1 April 2018, the Pensions Ombudsman will take over responsibility for all pension disputes. The TPAS dispute resolution function, staff and network of volunteer advisers will also be transferred to the ombudsman service.

The change forms part of the government's plans to create a single financial guidance body, of which TPAS will become an integral part. In the meantime, TPAS will continue to provide pension information and guidance to consumers.

"Confidence in private pensions is key to delivering our commitment of greater financial security for everyone in retirement," said Guy Opperman, the government's minister for pensions and financial inclusion.

"Whilst the planned single financial guidance body will ensure that financial guidance is open to everyone, at the same time it is essential that savers are clear on who to speak to if they have any complaints over their pension schemes. The decision to transfer disputes resolution work to the Pensions Ombudsman will both simplify how these complaints are handled, but should also give savers the confidence that their disputes will be resolved as quickly as possible," he said.

Pension disputes experts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the change would simplify the dispute resolution process for consumers, and would also benefit scheme employers and trustees.

"Currently, when something goes wrong there are several procedural hoops that scheme members have to go through - making the process complicated and time-consuming and, for some, probably off-putting," said Hayley Goldstone of Pinsent Masons. "It seems a very sensible plan to simplify the process so that members can access pension dispute resolution in one place and trimming the 'red tape' should get members a quicker outcome."

"This change is also a positive one for trustees and employers," said Charlotte Moss of Pinsent Masons. "Member complaints will be likely to be resolved more quickly and efficiently, reducing the amount of time being spent on processing and responding to member complaints by scheme secretaries and, in some cases, legal advisers. This will inevitably reduce costs for the trustees and employer concerned."