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ombudsman news

issue 62

June/July 2007

pensions progress

It is almost certainly a very good thing that - ten years ago - the instinct of some government ministers to sweep the Pensions Ombudsman into the new one-stop Financial Ombudsman Service was halted. It might have looked tidy, but there are significant differences between occupational pensions and other retail financial products when it comes to dispute-resolution.

Paul Thornton, who carried out the recent review of pensions institutions for the Department of Work and Pensions, was initially cautious about how a merger of the Pensions Ombudsman with our own scheme could work. Eventually, however, he saw the benefits of operational integration, so long as pensions complaints were subject to a separate jurisdiction within the Financial Ombudsman Service. We already have a model in our consumer credit jurisdiction, which has distinctive rules and funding arrangements but benefits from being managed within a single organisation.

Since we were set up, both we and the Pensions Ombudsman have tried to make the present system work, despite having a shared jurisdiction with untidy boundaries. 'They sold me the wrong pension and then messed it up' forms - potentially - two complaints for two different ombudsmen. So I welcome the government's decision to end the potential confusion and merge the two organisations.

Of course this will have to be handled with great care by all concerned. Not all stakeholders who responded to the Thornton Review wanted to see a merger. But it must help that the new Pensions Ombudsman charged with overseeing this is to be Tony King, currently our lead ombudsman for pensions and formerly casework director at the Pensions Ombudsman office. We will be letting him go with our warm wishes - and on a long piece of elastic.

Walter Merricks
chief ombudsman

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ombudsman news issue 62 - [PDF format]

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.