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Friends Life accused of poor service over pension delays

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An adviser has complained to Friends Life after waiting five months for information about a client’s pension and being told a retirement pack could take a further 40 days to arrive.

Rowley Turton chartered financial planner Scott Gallacher sent Friends Life a letter of authority on 4 March, shortly after taking on the client.

He chased the provider several times and raised a formal complaint before receiving some of the information requested on 17 August.

After receiving the information, Gallacher requested a retirement pack from Friends Life and was told it could take another 40 days to receive it.

He says: “Effectively, it will be seven or eight months before [the client] can get his money, leaving them in limbo.

“We cannot request the retirement pack when we request the original information because with some providers, depending on what type of pension you have, just requesting a retirement pack triggers certain events and can change the benefits.”

Gallacher says Friends Life, which merged with Aviva last year, blamed the initial delay in sending out information on a software upgrade which meant it could not access customer details.

A delay in responding to his initial complaint was attributed to a high volume of complaints, he was told.

Gallacher now has two outstanding complaints with the provider – one related to the five month delay and one concerning the timeframe to receive the retirement pack.

An Aviva spokeswoman says: “We sincerely apologise for the poor level of service we have provided and we are looking into the cause of the delays as a matter of urgency.

“We aim to resolve all complaints quickly and fairly. Where we have caused a delay, we will also make sure the client hasn’t lost out financially. Where we fail to meet expectations, our first priority is to resolve the issue as quickly as possible and act on any feedback we receive, and we are sorry that we were not able to do so in this case.”

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Comments

There are 13 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. We’ve had exactly the same experience – seriously unbelievable how long they are taking to provide information and it is obviously having an impact on clients. We haven’t bothered complaining as it’s pointless, more time, energy ultimately cost, to no end.

    The outcome is that we are reviewing all the clients who have Friends Life policies and advising them that should they need to access cash in the next twelve months they need to move now.

    This will increase the workload and the fund outflows, however, providers like FL must fully understand there are consequences and real costs for providing this level of poor service.

    We as advisers and consumers have a choice about who we use and we exercise this choice. Vote with your feet – much more effective than complaining and then getting a bland corporate statement like the one above.

  2. This mirrors my own experience trying to obtain even basic information. Until making an official complaint on behalf of my client after waiting 4 months ,endless telephone calls,broken promises,no response was forthcoming.Disgraceful.

    • Gareth Tregidon 23rd August 2016 at 4:45 pm

      Mine too Peter. I’ve also been waiting since March for some basic information, plus transfer/discharge papers.

      You mentioned making a complaint. Did that do any good? I’ve now made 2 (as they didn’t record the first one) and the only reply I’ve had (from Aviva) didn’t address what I’d complained about. Since then (June ) I’ve heard nothing, so would be interested to know how you got on?

  3. I feel that the headline may be misleading. In Salisbury, there are two FL offices. one empty, the other virtually so. Many talented and experienced people have had their jobs shut down. If this is replicated in Dorking, Exeter and other offices, then it is easy to see the problem.
    The delay is wrong – and extensive! However, the headline might run better as “AVIVA policy on staffing produces severe delays”.

  4. Ditto with my own experience. Unless you are on their shiny new platform they simply don’t care about “legacy” business which just moves from pillar to post as they look to grind out more and more cost saving. This is not isolated to Friends Life but they are by far the worst.

  5. Nothing but delays and inaccurate information over the past 12 months. We raised a complaint in August last year and after several failed attempts to provide accurate information, we’ve heard nothing further for several months.

    We even had a senior manager ask to make an appointment to call to apologise for the delays and to put in place measures..blah blah blah… Made an appointment for the call – guess what? She failed to call us.

    Their ‘service’ levels are now worse than Phoenix and Windsor Life/ReAssure which is saying something. Without doubt the consistently worst ‘service’ from any provider over the past 12 months.

  6. Hold The Front Page…”Friends Life service is not very good”.

    This story could have been written any time over the past 10-15 years.

  7. It’s not Friends Life’s fault. It’s entirely down to Aviva, they’ve gutted every Friends Life office they could, removing entire teams who look after this.

    The result being less staff and no staff who actually understand how to utilise the new BANCS system they installed RIGHT before the Aviva purges.

    • Anthony Merrett 10th May 2017 at 2:03 am

      hi y a I noticed that Aviva email addressed personnel were distinctly less helpful than FL’d ones but is this a possible reason that processing post out of standard forms is failing

  8. Ditto – I have been trying for over 12 months now with a financial adviser to access a very large pension fund – one of their legacy pensions…. and still not got it transferred despite raising a complaint in June 2016 and now the Ombudsman is involved. Disgraceful that people cannot get basic information to allow them to make informed choices about their pension funds. Just get stonewalled when you ring, cant speak to anyone other than a helpdesk that is not helpful and told the wait is 42 days to respond and still nothing comes.

  9. Jenny 2nd April 2017 2nd April 2017 at 8:49 pm

    I’ve been trying to resolve a complaint since June 2016 despite the ombudsman ruling in my favour information is still being withheld. Called again last week to be fobbed off that the person dealing with it was off, given more incorrect information and my request for it to be put in writing to me, has again been ignored. How do Friends Life get away with messing with people’s lives.

  10. Anthony Merrett 5th May 2017 at 9:01 pm

    I have been trying to arrange receipt of annuity payments for 3 years now (and earlier) there systems dont seem to be working ditributing recording information received at their various locations. complaints team/suppervisors behaved disgracefully when clearly aware of failings -such as posting to incorrect address.
    ethically (and practically) very similar in conduct to the old mail order companies which advertised in Sunday papers (if you are old enough to remember) .

    I feel for their staff morale though (as they are helpless to do anything with such system degradation …)….youcan hear it sometimes in the timbre of their voices.

    • Anthony Merrett 10th May 2017 at 1:55 am

      just to provide an update-Friends Life Aviva NOW accept in writing 10.05.2017 that have system integration problem from merger in 2015 and cannot locate risk warning completed forms (and authority to deal) HOWEVER the system is also failing to process post out of standard documents re encashment. The last post out of a standard form processed 02.05 was a fail for undisclosed reason.

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