Pension Freedom  

ABI hits back after Altmann criticism

ABI hits back after Altmann criticism

The Association of British Insurers has revealed it was surprised former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann blamed the industry for the plug being pulled on default pension guidance.

Rob Yuille, assistant director and head of retirement policy at the Association of British Insurers, said Baroness Altmann was wrong to blame pension providers for the removal of the amendment to the Financial Guidance and Claims bill, which would have seen consumers automatically enrolled into a free guidance service.

Mr Yuille (pictured) said the ABI never called for the dilution of default guidance and added the trade body was firmly committed to, and rigorously lobbied for, greater protections against pension scams and fraud. 

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Baroness Altmann claimed the government has bowed to industry pressure and removed a clause designed to protect consumers from losing huge sums in scams, frauds and unwise pension transfers.

Last week she said providers were uninterested in whether people understand the risks and implications of irreversible decisions and too often direct their customers to their own telephone helplines, which cannot and do not provide independent, unbiased help.

But Mr Yuille said as a trade body, he represented a wide array of pension providers, all of whom wish to find a practical deterrent to scams – an issue that has proliferated since the dawn of pension freedoms.

He said: "More widely, supporting customers in making retirement decisions is crucial, and we have advocated strongly for making consumers taking guidance the new norm. We are exploring with members how proposed interventions such as a Midlife MOT and default guidance could work together in practice.

"We are keen for the government to give greater latitude to the FCA in how they make the rules concerning guidance, so that the guidance can be more tailored to each consumers’ situation.

"Now is not the time for a blame game. The Bill will be at committee stage later this week and we'll be working closely with the government to suggest a way forward."

When Mr Yuille's remarks were put to Baroness Altmann, she said she completely agreed with the ABI and did not want a ‘blame game’ about this issue.

The former pensions minister added she would be delighted if the ABI would join her in calling for the government to change its stance. 

She also expressed her gratitude for the help and briefings which the ABI provided during the passage of the Financial Guidance Bill in the Lords.

Baroness Altmann said: "I am glad they share our concerns that ministers have decided to water down the protections introduced with widespread cross-party support in the Lords and that is deeply worrying and am delighted that the ABI says its members support automatic enrolment into the government’s free guidance service, so they can make better informed decisions.

"I hope that pension providers and ABI members will now urgently press for the government to ensure the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill does not water down the important amendments passed in the House of Lords.