What Is The Pensions Ombudsman?

The Pensions Ombudsman is an independent organisation that helps individuals and companies deal with pension complaints. Read on to learn what The Pensions Ombudsman can help you with and how you can make a complaint.

Rachel Lacey Published on 13 September 2021. Last updated on 15 September 2021.
What Is The Pensions Ombudsman?

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) is an independent organisation set up to resolve complaints or disputes about pensions. It is backed by law, so it has the teeth to rectify your problem if it finds in your favour. Any decision it makes is legally binding.

Read on to find out more about how it could help you.

Who can contact The Pensions Ombudsman?

If you have a dispute with your pension provider or want to complain about the way your pension has or is being managed, you can take it to The Pensions Ombudsman. It can investigate the problem on your behalf, free of charge.

Beneficiaries entitled to benefits from somebody else’s pension can also use the service – this might include former or current spouses after a scheme member has passed away.

People with complaints about the Pension Protection Fund can also use the service.

The Pensions Ombudsman is not just for members of pension schemes. Employers or trustees of pension schemes also fall under its remit.

What complaints will it cover?

For individuals, complaints are likely to be around the administration or management of the scheme. This could mean the provider taking an unreasonable amount of time to do something, or not doing something it should have done. It may have broken a promise or provided misleading or incorrect information.

Employers may wish to make a complaint about the trustees or managers of a pension scheme, while trustees and managers may use the service to complain about the employer or the trustees and managers of another scheme.

What services does The Pensions Ombudsman not offer?

You cannot use The Pensions Ombudsman to make complaints about the state pension. To do that, you need to make a complaint directly to the Department for Work and Pensions.

You also cannot use it to trace a lost pension, or for complaints about the sales or marketing of a pension. If you think you received bad advice about a pension, you should take your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Employers cannot use the scheme to resolve disputes with administrators and the same applies to trustees and managers.

The Pensions Ombudsman is also unable to challenge cases where a decision has already been made by a court, tribunal or other ombudsman.

If you are unsure whether you can make a complaint, contact The Pensions Ombudsman.

How do I contact The Pensions Ombudsman?

You can contact The Pensions Ombudsman on 0800 917 4487 between 10am and 2pm, Monday to Friday, or you can email any time on [email protected].

Live chat is also available on its website on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays between 1pm and 4pm.

How can I make a complaint to The Pensions Ombudsman?

As a starting point, give the party you think is at fault the chance to rectify the problem.

If they don’t respond within eight weeks, or if you’re not happy with the response you receive from the party you have a grievance against, you can take your problem to The Pensions Ombudsman.

You can download a form from the website or complete it online. You may need to send in relevant paperwork.The Pension Ombudsman also has a factsheet on how it deals with non-financial aspects of any complaint.

Can I make a group complaint?

You may be eligible for a group complaint. However, each person will need to make a separate application, at which point The Pensions Ombudsman will select one person as a lead case who will submit one application and act as representative for the group.

What are The Pensions Ombudsman’s decision-making steps?

There are four potential stages to the process:

  1. Review: The ombudsman will go through your application to see if it is acceptable and may ask for further details. A decision may be possible at this stage.
  2. Investigate: The case will be passed to a resolution specialist or adjudicator.
  3. Make a decision or rectify the problem: Your complaint will either be resolved at this stage or the person working on it will share their opinion on the case.
  4. Determination: If the problem hasn’t been resolved by the steps so far, you can ask for the case to be investigated by the ombudsman which can make a final decision.

How long this process takes will depend on the complexity of your case. It could be resolved on first contact or take a year or more.

Are there any time limits on complaints?

Yes. All complaints should be made within three years of you becoming aware of the problem or three years from the point at which you should have become aware of the issue. Extensions may be granted in extenuating circumstances, such as serious ill health or if there have been delays from another organisation.

What is The Pensions Ombudsman’s Early Resolution Service?

This is a way of resolving your complaint more informally. If the team doesn’t think an adjudicator is required, your case can be passed on to the Early Resolution Service.

It will aim to resolve your problem fairly but it does not have legal powers. If you are unhappy with the result, you are free to use the more formal adjudication service.

Is The Pension Ombudsman’s decision final?

Yes. The ombudsman’s decision is final and legally binding, though an adjudicator's opinion is not.

However the case may not reach the ombudsman if all parties involved agree with the adjudicator’s decision and recommendations for resolution, at which point the case would be closed.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Rachel Lacey is freelance journalist with 20 years experience. She specialises in personal finance and retirement planning and is passionate about simplifying money matters for all. Read more

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