The Pensions Advisory Service has dealt with 10% more complaints in the past 12 months, however, queries concerning occupational schemes have dropped by 2%.
The body’s annual review – Advising on pensions: a review of activities 08/09 – revealed the biggest single cause of the rise in complaints was poor administration, with increases in both delays and mistakes contributing heavily to the figures.
TPAS said it dealt with a total of 7746 complaints compared to 7026 in the previous 12 months. It said most of the complaints concerned individual pension plans.
TPAS chief executive Malcolm McLean said the tough economic conditions in the second half of the year may have exacerbated the problem.
He explained: “There was undoubtedly a ‘double-whammy’ effect. Many savers had experienced significant reductions in the value of their pension savings from continuing stock market falls, and delays in obtaining an annuity quote or award often meant a further reduction in the pension eventually secured.”
A significant proportion of the complaints about delay reflected “administrative malfunctions” following insurance company mergers and takeovers.
McLean said problems in integrating systems after a takeover frequently caused delays in the payment of pension benefits and in responding to requests from policy holders. Individuals also advised TPAS of long delays in simply trying to get a response to their complaint.
Similarly, errors and mistakes were a source of discontent for many individuals. They resulted not only, in some instances, in a loss of expectation, but actual financial loss when expenditure or commitments had been entered into in the belief that a pension award or lump sum was correct when, as it later transpired, it was not.
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