Pension charge bill should be approached with caution

The co-founder of asset manager SCM Private and head of the True and Fair Campaign made the claim following the third reading of the Pensions Bill in the House of Lords on 12 March.

She said: “Government remains committed to transparency of costs and fees in the pensions and investment management industry, but we must ensure this critical opportunity is not squandered by woolly wording that is open to misinterpretation.”

Ms Miller warned an amendment to the Bill referring to the disclosure of “some or all transaction costs” tabled in late February sounded “ominous”.

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She added: “This amendment must not be allowed to create a loop-hole that can be exploited.”

Kevin LeGrand, head of pensions policy at Buck Consultants, said he believed that there must be “total transparency on costs – zero tolerance”.

However, he warned: “Transaction costs are often complex and impossible to summarise accurately, for example, in a form that most members would understand. Any attempt to do so runs the real risk of being misleading, which is at least as bad as not disclosing them at all.”

He suggested the bill’s wording allows regulations to be made to require the disclosure of costs on a “sensible basis, as long as there is an obligation for full and clear disclosure somewhere”.

Key points

The new clause 44 amendment means the secretary of state must make provision requiring the publication of information about “some or all of the transaction costs of a relevant scheme, and some or all of the administration charges imposed on members of a relevant scheme”.

The amendment states the FCA must make “general rules” requiring information of “some or all” of the transaction costs be given to members of the scheme, spouses or civil partners of members and persons within the application of the scheme.

It will now go to the House of Commons for consideration of the Lords’ amendments.

Adviser view

Carl Melvin, IFA at Bridge-of-Weir-based Affluent Financial Planning, said: “The government needs to balance increased transparency with the need not to overwhelm clients with masses of paperwork they won’t read.

“The government focuses too heavily on the cost and amount of information we have to disclose to clients and not enough on the benefits of products, running the risk that people will not save for their retirement, becuase we are telling them it is expensive, without telling them the value.”