Advisers have lambasted “crazy” Government rules which have led to the withdrawal of TV advertising for Pension Wise in the months surrounding pension freedoms.
The service was set up to provide guidance to customers unsure of their options under the new rules, which came into force this week. But advisers have warned that strict limits on advertising risk leaving consumers unaware of Pension Wise’s existence.
Instead, Pension Wise will be backed with a “low-level” advertising campaign until after the general election, with TV adverts dropped for almost two months.
Rules for the “purdah” period around an election normally block advertising of government campaigns, but a Cabinet Office decision allowed a limited exemption for Pension Wise.
The Government-backed guidance service will only be promoted through print and digital advertising for April and much of May.
Adverts are expected to contain factual information on the service provided by Pension Wise and how to access it.
Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners managing director Robert Reid says: “It’s incredible that the political parties couldn’t agree to an exemption to purdah rules for Pension Wise.
“People need to be engaged with this and that is less likely to happen if they don’t know the reforms are happening.”
Evolve Financial Planning director Steve Griffiths describes the decision to limit Pension Wise advertising as “crazy”
He says: “Pension Wise is a long way from perfect, but members of the public who have used it say that it has opened their eyes to some of the consequences, so it’s clearly proving useful.
“There’s a danger that people will be making decisions uninformed. Many companies will have safeguards built in, but this does lead to a bit of a gap, and if Pension Wise is not properly advertised then that takes something away from it.”
Dalbeath Financial Planning director Matthew Harris adds the decisions heightens the responsibilities on the advice sector to educate customers.
He says: “I don’t think Pension Wise is perfect by any means, but it does have some useful information and it tells people they have a choice, so this is a real shame.
“It would have been nice to get a little bit more support on that from the Government, certainly.”
Plan Money director Peter Chadborn says some already regard the marketing funds allocated to Pension Wise, when compared to other government services, as insufficient.
He says: “From an adviser point of view there has been a complete disparity with between things like the Money Advice Service marketing campaigns and Pension Wise. But it’s hugely important, and the promotion of it is too, because of how topical it is.
“Most consumers are aware that new options are available to them but don’t know where to turn and, based on the enquiries we are receiving, most don’t know what their options are.”
Chadborn adds that while some advisers may benefit from customers coming to them as a result of a lack of publicity for Pension Wise, this is likely to be a false victory.
He says: “Some advisers say they don’t support Pension Wise, but we do because the more informed a potential client is the better, and it makes our job easier.”
Government officials have stressed that existing rules make it compulsory for pension providers and trust-based pension schemes to signpost individuals to Pension Wise.
A Treasury spokeswoman says: “A nationwide advertising campaign across print, TV and digital channels ran throughout March as planned and factual print and digital advertising will remain in place during purdah.”
The Queen’s speech will launch a new government, marking the end of the purdah period, and is currently scheduled for 27 May.