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Redress claims: lots of pain, little gain

Being on guard about potential scams has been problematic enough for pension trustees in recent years. Now the rise of claims management firms offering (former) members the chance to ‘win’ financial repayment/redress for a pension transfer is causing trustees and their scheme administrators even more pain. Clearly this is seen as a potential way to fill the income gap from the end of PPI claims.

Across many of our clients we’re seeing Data Subject Access Requests (DSARs) from claims management firms. The ‘claim’ is the pension scheme didn’t make adequate checks on the receiving arrangement before allowing a member’s transfer-out request to proceed. They’ve stemmed from the upheld ‘Mr N’ Pensions Ombudsman case, which resulted in reinstatement in the original scheme.

Dealing with a transfer-out request has – quite rightly – become more onerous since the rise in pension scams. XPS Pensions Group recently highlighted a 2.6 fold increase in ‘red flag’ transfers over the last year, with one-third of cases now falling in this category. The trustees of virtually all pension schemes are taking extreme care and going to significant lengths in due diligence (the Pension Scams Industry Group’s guidance Combating Pension Scams: A Code of Good Practice is really helpful). So much so a member can get annoyed at the time a transfer request takes!

Most complaints are just speculative…

Responding to complaints and DSARs can take even more time. There’s the pension scheme’s Internal Dispute Resolution Procedure (IDRP) to go through and, potentially, a Pensions Ombudsman case too. Assessing what documentation falls within the scope of a DSAR can be tricky. Legal advice is often required by the pension trustees, adding to time and cost. This is especially frustrating given many of these complaints are at best only speculative - and at worst disingenuous (yes, we’ve seen those too).

Schemes with TPR involvement

Claims relating to schemes where an independent trustee has subsequently been appointed by The Pensions Regulator (TPR) can be tricky as they concern decisions and actions taken by the previous trustees. The fact a professional trustee has been appointed often means there have been historical governance issues, so investigations need to be made to be sure due process was followed.

If the member was concerned about the security of their employers’ trust based pension scheme they’re potentially more exposed to being scammed. If the previous trustees hadn’t done proper due diligence, a transfer out to a scam arrangement is more likely to have gone through. Arguably, these members are more likely to see a no win no fee claim as an attractive option – and are more likely to have a valid claim.

No wins, no fees, just costs

The trouble is these cases are very few and far between. The vast majority of pension trustees and scheme administrators are doing everything by the book. This means the IDRP and Pensions Ombudsman complaints are likely to fail.

If it really is no win no fee, claims management firms are facing high costs progressing these claims (as are pension schemes) with a low chance of success. I sincerely hope former members don’t still get billed as a result of some small print.

 

 

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