All employers must now organise pension arrangements for the benefit of their eligible employees through auto-enrolment. Historically, only certain employers offered the opportunity of joining a workplace pension.
We can only look at a complaint about a workplace pension if the complaint is about the way it’s been administered by an FCA-regulated pension provider, or if it and/or its investments have been advised upon by an FCA-regulated business.
This excludes many aspects of a final salary or money purchase workplace scheme – but if a consumer feels they’ve been advised incorrectly or unsuitably to transfer from a workplace scheme to a personal pension or Self Invested Personal Pension, we can look at this – and you can find out more about this on our page about workplace pensions transfers.
Complaints about workplace pensions that we can’t look at are dealt with by the Pensions Ombudsman. And we’ll let the consumer know if this is the case.
In general, in addition to transfers from workplace pensions, we can look at complaints about the following:
- group personal pensions (GPPs) – a type of money purchase arrangement
- small self-administered schemes (SSASs)
- executive pension plans (EPPs)
Types of complaints we see
Some complaints we see are common to more than one type of workplace pension. For example, consumers may complain that you:
- gave them unsuitable advice to start an employer-linked pension scheme such as a SSAS or an EPP
- didn't administer the pension scheme properly
- delayed paying their pension benefits or miscalculated them
- took too long to arrange a workplace pension scheme or arranged it incorrectly
- inappropriately tied up capital invested in a workplace pension scheme.
As GPPs are made up of individual personal pension plans, most of the complaints we see about these arrangements are about the administration of the plans by an FCA-regulated product provider. But we also see cases where a consumer complains about the:
- individual advice they received – but where a business says they only gave general information to all members of the GPP
- collective advice a business gave all members of the GPP.
We see a wide variety of complaints involving SSASs. Consumers may complain that:
- you took too long to set up the pension arrangement, or set it up incorrectly
- the investments the business recommended within the arrangement were unsuitable or incurred excessive charges
- you took too long setting up the annuity payments after the consumer had retired.
We see a wide variety of complaints involving EPPs. Consumers may complain that:
- you advised them to start regular contributions rather than single contributions – and this has led to increased charges and/or an unaffordable commitment
- you misquoted the tax-free sum or amount of pension income
- you overpaid the tax-free sum or pension income and now the consumer has to pay back some of it
- advice to transfer to an executive pension plan led to excessive penalties being applied to their benefits
- commission for providing advice was excessive.
What we look at
We'll take into account the individual circumstances, and the points and evidence put forward by both sides.
We’ll look into the way the plan within the GPP has been administered – and whether errors have been made in that administration. We’ll consider whether, on balance, you did give advice, either individually to the consumer or collectively to the members of the GPP.
If we decide you did give advice, we’ll assess the suitability of the advice you gave. Find out more about assessing the suitability of investments. If we decide you didn’t give advice, we’ll still look at whether the information you gave was clear, fair and not misleading.
We’ll take into account the:
- rules governing the scheme that were in place at the time of the dispute
- members’ rights and duties of the trustees
- general suitability of the advice you gave.
If we decide you didn’t give advice, we’ll still look at whether the information you gave was clear, fair and not misleading.
We’ll take into account:
- whether an EPP was the right type of pension scheme in the circumstances
- whether the investments within the EPP were suitable
- what information you gave to the consumer when the executive pension arrangement was set up and whether it was clear, fair and not misleading
- (and if relevant) whether the consumer was likely to be able to meet any regular premium commitments.
Handling a complaint like this
We only look at complaints that you've had a chance to look at first, so that you have the chance to put things right. If a consumer complains and you don't respond to them within the time limits or they're not happy with your decision, they can come to us.
Find out more about how to resolve a complaint.
Putting things right
When we uphold a consumer’s complaint, we’ll tell you what you need to do to put things right.
For complaints about the administration of a GPP, this could take the form of reconstructing the value of a policy if contributions have been applied late – which may involve the GPP provider applying extra units to a plan. If documents have been sent to a wrong address, or originals have been mislaid, we might make an award for the inconvenience this has caused, or to cover the cost of replacing the originals.
For complaints involving an SSAS or EPP, if they involve administration issues the redress would be particular to what has gone wrong. If we decide that the investments within those plans are unsuitable, redress could take the form of financial compensation paid to the pension plan or directly to the consumer, and/or reconstructing pension plans where possible.
We may also make an award for any trouble or upset caused. Find out more about how we award compensation.
Businesses and consumer advisers can contact our Business Support Hub on 020 7964 1400 for general information on how the ombudsman might look at a particular complaint, or for guidance on our rules and how we work. Or you can search our database of published ombudsman's decisions.
Our work gives us an insight into how complaints arise and how they might be avoided in the future. Find out more about the ways we share our knowledge and experience.