Pensions minister Steve Webb has announced that the Pension Wise guidance service website will be rolled out next month and will be warning people where to put their money to ensure they do not get taken advantage of by scammers.
Speaking at a National Employment Savings Trust event today on auto-enrolment, Mr Webb said that rather than have a “big bang” on the 6 April when the new pension freedoms come in, the government intends to have a “soft launch” first.
“The website will be published next month so people will be able to see the journey on the Pension Wise website... obviously we want people to use that as much as possible to systematically go through the information that’s there and get what they need.”
He said that the pilot launch and face-to-face sessions, also being rolled out next month, are particularly interested in the people who are holding off deciding what they want to do until the new reforms kick in.
“We plan to start probably in some weeks time with the first guidance sessions so we will have started and that will enable us to calibrate what we are doing, get a sense of is the 45 minutes working and the context working and refine it if we need to.”
Earlier today, yet more research was published warning that scammers will take advantage of consumers from April.
Research carried out by Opinium Research, on behalf of closed life fund consolidator Phoenix Group via 2,004 online interviews, found 45 per cent of pension savers yet to retire have been contacted, either through unsolicited calls or messages sent via email or text.
Mr Webb said that with regard to pension scams the government clearly intends the Pension Wise service will flag to people to be careful where they put their money.
He added that in this context a lot goes on behind the scenes in terms of closing down websites and arrests - and he welcomed the fact that HM Revenue and Customs has finally applied tougher rules to register a pension scheme.
This last measure could prove to be largely ineffective post-April, however, as new freedoms allow people to take their money freely and leaves them vulnerable to unscrupulous firms offering apparently high-returning unregulated investments as an alternative to a pension.
He said: “I’ve been pushing quite hard at going back over the ones that are registered and saying ‘they got through before we shut the stable door, should they be there?’”
“As you will know there’s an alphabet soup of organisations involved in tackling this and could - there’s Project Gloom and all the rest of it - do with being more coordinated than it is.”
Today the FCA confirmed in a ‘Dear CEO’ letter sent to pension providers that firms should ask clients specific questions around their circumstances, give relevant risk warnings, and refer to regulated advice, as a ‘second line of defence’ for consumers.