Ombudsman sees sharp rise in liberation and Sipp complaints

Anthony Arter

The Pensions Ombudsman received over 200 complaints concerning pension liberation in 2015/16, up from 180 on the previous year.

Cases relating to pension liberation – where savers attempt to access their pot before the age of 55 – account for 20 per cent of all cases, according to the Ombudsman’s annual report.

In addition, enquiries were up 18 per cent, to around 5,000, and there was a 6 per cent increase in the number of investigations, to 1,363.

Around 40 per cent of cases decided by the Ombudsman were partly or wholly upheld.

Personal pensions as a total of all complaints increased from 25 per cent of cases, to 46 per cent, largely driven by Sipps.

The Ombudsman, which handled complaints against providers not advisers, has a 50-strong staff and a budget of £3.4m.

Ombudsman Anthony Arter says: “There has been a marked increase in the number of pension complaints coming to our office. This is particularly so in respect of personal pensions where in the financial year 2014/15 they accounted for 25 per cent of our completed investigations. This has increased now to 46 per cent with the largest increase being Sipps.

“Our priority in the past year was to find ways to deal with complaints more efficiently while at the same time simplifying the wider customer journey.  Changes to our internal processes and a focus on dialogue and early resolution are helping us to deliver this.  It has resulted in a dramatic increase to 63 per cent in the number of cases resolved informally.”

“It is vital to have clear signposting and a simple pathway to a more straightforward resolution of all pension complaints in order for the public and pensions industry to have confidence in a fair and impartial outcome.”