Pensions Ombudsman 

FCA to ask firms to direct complaints to Pensions Ombudsman

FCA to ask firms to direct complaints to Pensions Ombudsman

The Financial Conduct Authority will ask firms to direct clients complaining about pensions to the Pensions Ombudsman as well as the Financial Ombudsman Service (Fos).

In a consultation on handbook changes published on 1 December, the regulator said it wanted firms to acknowledge the roles both dispute bodies played with regards to pension complaints and to inform consumers accordingly.

The Fos and the Pensions Ombudsman signed an updated agreement on 1 December, outlining their respective remits in the field.

In the main, the Pensions Ombudsman deals with complaints about the administration or management of pension schemes, while the Fos investigates complaints about the advice received when taking out a pension. 

Fos can also help with some complaints about the administration of personal pension schemes but not of occupational schemes.

The Pension Ombudsman is due to take over the dispute resolution function carried out by The Pensions Advisory Service (Tpas) in April next year.

This is because Tpas will merge with the government’s at retirement guidance service Pension Wise and the Money Advice Service into one single consumer focused guidance body.

The FCA wants firms to refer complaints about the administration or management of pension schemes directly to the Pensions Ombudsman.

It is also asking them to update the information given to clients about their regulatory protections to include signposting to both Fos and the Pension Ombudsman.

Regulated firms are currently required to provide complainants with information about the Fos to raise consumer awareness about available protections.

They are also required to refer eligible complainants to the Fos when issuing a final response to a complaint.

The FCA stated: “Some complaints about personal pension schemes may be considered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or by the Pensions Ombudsman. 

“A memorandum of understanding between the two organisations, reflecting that overlap, has recently been updated. 

“Against this backdrop, we are proposing to change DISP to state that, where relevant, and additionally to requirements regarding the Financial Ombudsman Service respondents can provide eligible complainants with information about the Pensions Ombudsman [and] respondents can refer eligible complainants to the Pensions Ombudsman using prescribed wording when issuing a final response.”

Pensions Ombudsman Anthony Arter said: “We are extremely pleased that the Financial Conduct Authority has detailed its plans to update signposting to the public and pensions industry to provide clarity in respect of the services provided by the two organisations.”

Chartered IFA at IFS Wealth and Pensions, Ricky Chan, said: "It would be great if the FCA could provide a prescribed leaflet for potential complainants which explains both Fos and The Pensions Ombudsman, and which one to use to escalate their complaint if they are not satisfied with the regulated firm’s response.

"Without this to explain the distinction, I imagine clients would probably be quite confused and they may submit duplicate enquiries to both."