The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR) have said that all complaints and disputes about occupational and personal pension schemes have to be signposted to the Pension Ombudsman, despite current legislation saying otherwise.
Following the merger of The Pensions Advisory Service (Tpas) dispute resolution function with the Pension Ombudsman in March, schemes should be signposting their members accordingly, with all complaints and disputes about occupational and personal pension schemes going to the ombudsman, while general requests for information and guidance go to Tpas.
The clarification comes as Tpas is preparing to merger with Pension Wise and The Money Advice Service under the new Single Financial Guidance Body.
Schemes had been concerned about changing their existing signposting provisions because current legislation has not been modified to reflect the merger, and Tpas as a body is still in existence.
Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, and Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of TPR, said in a joint statement the delays were caused by legislation workload ahead of Brexit.
"This means that all other legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows," they said.
They added changes to legislation reflecting that schemes should signpost members to the ombudsman would be made "at the latest by April 2020".
The statement also confirmed there would be no penalties for schemes referring disputes and complaints to the ombudsman that have not first gone through the scheme’s internal dispute resolution process (IDRP).
Anthony Arter, the Pensions Ombudsman, welcomed the clarification.
He said: "Since Tpas’ dispute resolution function transferred to the Pension Ombudsman in March 2018, there has been some understandable reluctance on the part of schemes to change their signposting and risk non-compliance with existing legislation.
"This clarifies the situation for everyone. TPAS deals with guidance requests and the Pension Ombudsman deals with all complaints and disputes.
"Customers using our early resolution service at the Pension Ombudsman will not be expected to have first used a scheme’s IDRP if the parties are happy with that."