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Aegon wins complaint over forcing transfer client to get advice

UK-Currency-Money-Notes-20-GBP-700x450.jpgA complaint that Aegon unfairly refused to allow a pension transfer valued under £30,000 without advice first has been quashed by The Pensions Ombudsman.

In a ruling released this week, the complainant said they had attempted to consolidate multiple small pensions pots into an Aegon Flexible Pension Plan, which were all cleared except for their Credit Agricole Legacy Pension Scheme – a defined benefit scheme.

Aegon says a “blanket decision” means it requires all DB transfers to require financial advice to have been undertaken first, regardless of value – and that it was legally allowed to enforce this policy.

This is despite FCA rules only mandating consumers take advice on pots with more than £30,000 in safeguarded benefits.

The complainant says Aegon’s decision contravenes outcome six of the Treating Customers Fairly framework which protects customers from ”unreasonable” barriers.

Aegon also provided incorrect information as to which body the complainant could refer his case to, the claimant alleged.

The case was passed to the ombudsman after the complainant did not accept an adjudicator’s preliminary decision in favour of Aegon.

With no legal obligation, the ombudsman says it cannot direct Aegon to accept the transfer, and companies “are entitled to run their businesses as they see fit.”

Commissioner Anthony Arter says: “It would appear that Aegon, cognisant of the Pensions Scheme Act 2015, has taken a commercial decision to require all members wishing to transfer from DB schemes to take independent financial advice.

“I do not see that Aegon has breached any regulatory guidance or legal requirements by imposing this condition. Therefore, I cannot say that Aegon has acted contrary to the rules of a pensions scheme or that there has been an act of maladministration.”

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Comments

There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. It is reassuring to know that the ombudsman states that we should be able to run our businesses as we see fit,that gives us the right to turn away insistent customers without fear of reprisal at a later date, whether it be DB transfers or any other transaction that could potentially damage the firm.

  2. “FCA rules only mandating consumers take advice on pots with more than £30,000 in safeguarded benefits.”

    Sorry chaps, it’s the Pension Schemes Act 2015 – legislation not regulation.

  3. A victory for common sense. If the complainant was so annoyed with AEGON, why didn’t s/he just take all his/her business to another provider?

    • take the high road 12th October 2018 at 5:06 pm

      I’ve had a similar experience with a client recently who’s wife had a small DB scheme he asked us to enquire about. Turned out the scheme would offer a CETV of just under £14k or a GMP at retirement of £123 p.a. When seeing these numbers, they were inclined to transfer this pot to the wife’s existing SIPP with James Hay however, but if we gave advice(and having this to be dealt with and signed off by a PTS) we told them it would cost them a few thousand pounds. Would James Hay accept the transfer without advice; NO…not without it being signed off with a recommendation to transfer.

      So, my question is what really is the point in having any low level bar(sub £30k)if providers will still not accept these small pots without the full advice process being followed.

  4. Nicholas Pleasure 12th October 2018 at 3:12 pm

    …and if Aegon had accepted the complaint and accepted the transfer, you can bet another complaint would have arrived shortly claiming that the transfer was not in the clients interest.

    It’s nice to see Aegon making a wise decision for once.

  5. I am not usually a fan of AEGON, but I congratulate them for standing their ground

  6. As a matter of interest, is it a regulatory requirement for an intermediary firm to hold the relevant permissions if all they’re doing is facilitating a transfer (or encashment) of sub-£30K benefits on an Exec. Only basis?

  7. The funny thing is, that if the consumer had opened a stakeholder pension with AEGON and transferred it there, then they couldn’t have refused the transfer to a stakeholder pension I think you’ll find… The commercial decision then (unlike with a PPP or SIPP) is simply whether to offer a stakeholder or not and the provider has to commit to the CAT standard terms. As such, the consumer could have made the transfer as a 2 stage process i.e. <30k DB tf to stakeholder and then stakeholder to SIPP with the same provider.

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