Who Are the Pensions Ombudsman and What Do They Do?

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Our guide to the pensions ombudsman

Pensions don’t always go to plan. If you’ve had a bad experience, you might not know where to turn to. If you believe that your pension was mis-sold, you might want to take legal action.

Whether you’re fighting to get your money back, or just want to know that someone will be held to account, you can contact the Pensions Ombudsman for a completely impartial investigation.

Offering an impartial and independent service, the Pensions Ombudsman can review complaints or disputes about UK pensions. The Pensions Ombudsman offers a free service led by experienced professionals.

The Pensions Ombudsman might uphold your claim or may not find in your favour. Either way, you’ve nothing to lose, as services cost absolutely nothing.

Read on to find out more about what the Pensions Ombudsman does.

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Who Is Involved in the Pension Ombudsman Service?

More than 200 qualified, experienced professionals make up this expert team. They’ll consider both sides of the story, working to make the right decision. Both parties involved in a complaint have a right to share their perspective. All complaints are carefully reviewed by unbiased, independent employees and volunteers.

What Can the Pensions Ombudsman Do?

You can make a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman about almost any pension-related issue. This is the case whether it’s a workplace pension or something that you’ve managed on your own.

Employers can contact the Pensions Ombudsman, as can pension providers. The Pensions Ombudsman will attempt to resolve all complaints as quickly as possible. The aim is to find a speedy resolution, though this doesn’t always go to plan. You can continue to ask for support until the outcome is satisfactory.

Typical complaints include people being provided with incorrect or false information, people breaking the law or someone taking too long to act on something that they should have. If the Ombudsman can’t help you, they may be able to direct you to a more suitable service.

It’s free to make use of the Pensions Ombudsman’s service, though you must be complaining about a private pension or employee pension scheme. The Pensions Ombudsman can’t get involved in a complaint about the state pension.

The Pensions Ombudsman – Statistics

In the 2018/19 Ombudsman Annual Report, it was shown that over 8,200 people had got in touch by phone within that year to find out whether the Ombudsman could help, with 1,268 investigations then carried out. Over 5,750 written enquiries were also received, with the vast majority of these resolved.

Around 28% of complaints that were determined by an Ombudsman were upheld, at least in part.

Contacting the Pensions Ombudsman

You shouldn’t contact the Pensions Ombudsman immediately. Before filing a complaint, always give the other party a chance to make things right on their own.

Give up to four weeks for your complaint to be properly managed and resolved. If that doesn’t happen, because your complaint is ignored or you’re not happy with the response you’ve received, you can contact the Pensions Ombudsman to take things further.

In most cases, complaints can be made for up to three years after the event you’re addressing.

Be prepared to back up your complaint with documents and recorded evidence. Keep hold of letters, emails, or a list of call dates and times. You can complete an online form or download it to send through the mail. You can also call the Pensions Ombudsman during office hours.

Does the Pensions Ombudsman Regulate Personal Pension Schemes?

Thankfully, the Pensions Ombudsman is able to rule on complaints regarding pension mis-selling or issues between the pension provider and customer. So, if you have a problem with your personal pension scheme and your provider is a reluctance to assist, then you can approach the Pensions Ombudsman. You tend to find that correspondence from the Pensions Ombudsman will make pension providers sit up and listen.

Does the Pensions Ombudsman Regulate Occupational Pension Schemes?

Occupational pension schemes can become quite complicated, especially when you leave employment or you are perhaps made redundant. Obviously, your employer should be your first port of call as a means of contacting the occupational pension scheme administrator.

However, if you do not receive assistance or answers to your questions, then you have every right to approach the Pensions Ombudsman.

How Can I Find Details of My Pension Schemes?

It is a lot easier than many people assume, losing details of your pension schemes due to something as simple as moving address and not updating your records.

There are three main ways in which you can trace your pension schemes:-

Contact the Original Pension Provider

This should be your first port of call although it can get complicated if your previous pension provider has been taken over, gone out of business or trades under a different name.

However, it is unlikely that the questions you are asking about a particular pension provider have not been asked before. As a consequence, a quick search of the Internet should give you an idea of what has happened.

Contact the Pension Tracing Service

There is a free service known as the “pension tracing service” which keeps a database of more than 200,000 workplace and personal pension schemes. This should enable you to trace a previous pension provider to see if they are still trading and obtain up to date contact details.

You should also be able to find who took over your pension scheme in the event that there were changes to the business.

Contact Your Employer for Workplace Pensions

If you are looking at a workplace pension, it is important to contact your employer first. Companies are legally obliged to keep paperwork for at least seven years so they should have details of changes to your pension scheme, new administrators, contact details, etc.

It is highly unlikely that your current/previous employer will not have details of their workplace pension arrangement even if this goes back many years.

Can I Pursue Compensation for Pension Mis-Selling?

While we have covered many of the procedures available to address potential pension mis-selling problems, you can also employ the services of a claims management company. If you have a strong claim for mis-selling, or there has been a problem with your administration, they may take on your claim on a “no win no fee” arrangement.

Remember, many of these claims management companies have long-standing experience in pursuing compensation for pension mis-selling. Research also shows that in successful cases, they tend to negotiate a significantly higher rate of compensation than any individual could.

How Long Will It Take to Get a Response?

The Pensions Ombudsman will aim to reply within ten days of your complaint. This won’t necessarily be a final resolution but will involve an initial acceptance or rejection. Only in very rare circumstances, during particularly busy times, will you be waiting more than ten days for acknowledgement from the Ombudsman.

Final decisions can take a lot longer, and no exact date can be put on them. It’ll all depend on each unique case, what’s required for the decision and how hard it is to get hold of evidence. Complex cases might take a long time, as can cases where someone is hard to get hold of. In rare cases, it can take more than a year to get the Ombudsman’s decision.

What Happens to Complaints From More Than Three Years Ago?

You should complain within three years, though this isn’t always possible. It may be that you didn’t realise, until more than three years later, that a complaint about something was warranted. If that’s the case, you still have time to seek help from the Pensions Ombudsman.

Discretion will be used if you’re filing a complaint about events from more than three years ago. A successful resolution is far more likely if you’ve got evidence from the event.

What Happens When You File a Complaint?

The Pensions Ombudsman will review your complaint and come to a quick decision. In most cases, staff use their extensive experience to decide who’s in the right and who’s wrong. They may also be able to offer a way to resolve any issues.

If a case is more difficult, it may be passed on to a higher level decision-maker. These include Resolution Specialists and Adjudicators. A thorough investigation will, eventually, lead to a final decision. Investigations may require more evidence or statements from other parties.

The Pensions Ombudsman’s decision is final. It should only be appealed if you feel that there’s a legal issue involved.

What if a Complaint Is Upheld?

Decisions, either way, are published by the Pensions Ombudsman. Anonymised details will be shown on the website where they can be seen by any visitor.

If your complaint is upheld, the Ombudsman will help to bring about a full resolution. They may contact the other party on your behalf and set out what needs to be done. Usually, issues are quickly resolved once the Ombudsman has been involved.

Money Savings Advice Tip

If you believe that you have been the victim of a pension fraud then you should contact the Pensions Ombudsman for advice. There is an alternative solution where a claims management company can take your case on, they will usually charge on a ‘no-win no-fee’ basis, our tip would be speak to both.

How Might a Complaint Be Resolved?

The Pensions Ombudsman will need to decide on an appropriate resolution. This may be anything from a formal apology to financial compensation. The Ombudsman might also force action if a company’s been stalling or delaying.

Many people don’t seek monetary compensation – they just want to know that an issue will be properly resolved. The Ombudsman can make sure that you’re not left out of pocket, but just as often will take different steps to get the response you deserve.

Whatever the situation, Pensions Ombudsman staff have been trained to make the right decisions impartially.

What Happens if the Pensions Ombudsman Can’t Help?

The Pensions Ombudsman will make a final decision. If they don’t uphold your complaint, or if they can’t help at all, you may be able to seek help elsewhere or continue your complaint on your own.

You can get support from private solicitors, or consider the Financial Ombudsman for a similar but separate service. You can also speak to a financial advisor who might offer guidance and support.

How Can Money Savings Advice Help You With Making a Mis-Sold Pension Claim?

Here at Money Savings Advice, we have partnered with some of the UK’s leading Financial Claims management companies. They have already helped thousands of people claim compensation for a mis-sold pension and they can do the same for you.

Choosing an independent claims management company means they won’t proceed with a claim unless they are sure it is in your best interests. They are also regulated by the FCA, which gives you an additional layer of protection.

If you would like to speak to one of these claim management companies who can help you make a compensation claim, then click on the below and answer the very simple questions.


Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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