Pensions Ombudsman  

Ombudsman investigates 229 British Steel complaints

Ombudsman investigates 229 British Steel complaints

The Pensions Ombudsman has accepted 229 complaints against the trustees of the British Steel Pension Scheme, it has revealed.

According to a response to a freedom of information request published yesterday (March 11), the complaints – which all include a point about the information, or lack of, provided by the scheme trustees – concern cash equivalent transfer values and early retirement factors.

Steelworkers are allowed to retire early due to the nature of their work and can access benefits from the age of 55, subject to their employer agreeing to their retirement.

If they retire from service between the ages of 55 and 64, the pension may be reduced for each year and month that the individual retires early.

In total, the Pensions Ombudsman accepted 178 cases on CETVs and 51 on early retirement factors, it stated.

The FOI revealed there were three lead cases concerning complaints about CETVs, and all other complaints had been grouped underneath, according to their likeness to those respective cases.

There is one lead case in relation to the 51 complaints about early retirement factors, which include a point about the CETV provided prior to the members taking early retirement.

BSPS members were asked to decide by December 2017 whether to move their defined benefit pension pots to a new plan, BSPS II, or stay in the existing fund, which was then moved to the Pension Protection Fund as part of a restructuring of pension liabilities.

At the time it was alleged that thousands of members didn't receive all the information necessary about their pensions to be able to make an informed decision on the matter.

The scheme had about 130,000 members of which 44,000 were deferred, which meant they had the option of transferring out.

About 8,000 of these transferred out of the scheme by October last year, collectively worth about £2.8bn.

The Pensions Ombudsman is currently in the process of finalising its preliminary decisions on the lead cases, which will be shared with the applicant of that lead case and the trustee, it stated.

After these are issued and both parties are given the opportunity to respond, any comments or evidence provided will be considered, and further investigation may be required.

If the ombudsman’s decision is not materially changed, it will issue the final determination which will be shared with the associated cases.

maria.espadinha@ft.com