State pension age ‘injustice has damaged life’ – Woman on shock of discovering the changes

According to the ombudsman’s annual report, cases which would previously have taken between six months to a year to resolve are taking more than a year.

The target for the year was to have no more than 10 percent of cases active for over a year, but this figure was close to three times that, at 29.1 percent.

Anthony Arter, the Pension Ombudsman, said in the report that “a notable trend is that complaints are becoming increasingly complex which has impacted on the time it takes to investigate them”.

The report also states that limited access to offices and delays in receiving the information needed to resolve disputes caused delays.

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Ian Neal, director at Aries Insight, blamed the increasing complexity of pension regulation.

“No one in the [pensions] industry can confidently say they remember everything that’s happened or can answer every question, there’s too much. Politicians became interested in pensions as they realised -rightly- pension scams were really quite dangerous.

“One lawyer calculated that if you have to follow FCA [Financial Conduct Authority] guidelines and were to print off all of the regulations you need to follow from them on A4 paper, you could pile them eight feet high.”

This means, he argues, that too much is demanded from pension schemes and that it’s “unreasonably and unfairly” hampering their ability to function normally.

“The government doesn’t normally think about it but every additional regulation and every bit of information that needs to be provided comes with an administrative cost; each time an IT system needs to be replaced, there’s a cost and it’s shouldered by the [pension] providers.”

The growing complexity of pensions has been a running theme since the 1995 Pension Act and even subsequent legislation brought in to simplify legislation had the reverse effect.

It has been argued that the government pursued the policy of over-regulating pensions in response to the infamous scandal involving Robert Maxwell, who stole millions of pounds from the Daily Mirror’s pension scheme.

It was decided that he represented a typical risk rather than an egregious example.

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It has got to the point where the “regulatory burden on pension schemes has become intolerable”, according to Mr Neal.

Barry Strathearn, Compliance Director at Lowes Financial Management, said that while the 4,853 pension complaints resolved, a six percent increase on the year before “should be commended”, he warned “there is much work to do”.

Mr Steathearn added that the latest customer satisfaction survey where only 53 percent of 1,716 respondents said they were provided with a good service is worrying and does not provide confidence in the ombudsman’s key aim to “Get the right outcome every time and in good time”.

“Let’s not forget that there are individuals behind each and every complaint, what impact does the delay have on the complainants? Particularly those that may be particularly vulnerable and have complaints regarding death benefit payments and ill health pension payments.”

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