A Suffolk Life client has lost his claim that he needed adviser-level knowledge to understand the firm’s Sipp deal after it acquired a collapsed discretionary fund manager.
A client complained to the Pensions Ombudsman that he had to undertake 10 hours of “financial adviser type work” to understand how Suffolk Life was working with European Pensions Management Limited after it acquired the DFM.
The client, referred to as Mr T, claimed against Suffolk Life at £100 an hour. He argued it should also refund him an administration fee of £240, and that he should receive compensation for the distress and inconvenience caused.
The Pensions Ombudsman did not uphold the complaint, saying that it would be unreasonable for Suffolk Life to pay Mr T £1,000 for the amount of time and effort spent dealing with the complaint because no financial loss had actually occurred.
It was expected that Mr T spend some time trying to deal with the issue himself. Any further time Mr T spent dealing with the issue was his choice. Mr T had not provided any evidence or an explanation as to why he believed the firm should refund him a £240 administration fee, the adjudicator ruled, and because they did not believe that any maladministration has occurred, they said no award for distress and inconvenience should be made.
Mr T previously had a Sipp with European Pensions Management Limited. In July 2016, EPML was placed into administration by the FCA and its business was acquired by Suffolk Life. It took the decision to wind up the various pension schemes held by EPML.
In November 2016 Suffolk Life wrote to all of its customers, including Mr T, who would be affected by the change in Sipp provider. It explained that there was an option to transfer to another Sipp provider without incurring a charge. However, this could only be done with an investor’s transfer instruction.
As part of the acquisition of EPML, Suffolk Life contacted iDealing.com Limited, an investment firm who Mr T had invested with through EPML.
Suffolk Life said that “initially, our attempts stalled as iDealing, as standard, do not sign into Sipp company agreements”. Between November 2016 and May 2017, Suffolk Life continued to try and correspond with iDealing. However, iDealing refused to recognise Suffolk Life as its new Sipp provider.
In February 2017, Mr T complained the funds transferred from his Sipp to iDealing could not be used for trading. Mr T believed that Suffolk Life was failing to provide the service it promised when it took over EPML.
Suffolk Life responded to Mr T, explaining iDealing’s position but that “in order to progress the situation Suffolk Life have agreed to accept iDealing’s standard terms and conditions.”
Later, Suffolk Life explained that despite its continuing efforts, iDealing were still refusing to accept its position as Sipp provider, and said: “This means that our requests to move money between Suffolk Life and iDealing are being refused, and iDealing will not accept the re-registration of assets to Suffolk Life”.
Suffolk Life stated that it would not normally action a transfer request if it was unable to carry out its checks on an investment firm such as iDealing, and explained the risks to Mr T if this were to happen.
However, Suffolk Life said that they would do so if the client signed a declaration that firm would not be held liable for losses.