Pensions Ombudsman  

Ombudsman to launch online complaints system

Ombudsman to launch online complaints system

The Pensions Ombudsman is developing a portal to enable claimants to lodge their complaints online, which it hopes will speed up the process.

In its corporate plan for 2019-2022, published last week (October 2), the Pension Ombudsman announced plans to introduce an online portal where individuals will be able to complete forms and upload documents to help speed up the complaints process.

Complainants will be able to track the progress of their complaint online and there will also be a function to allow respondents to upload documents.

The Pensions Ombudsman said this will make it quicker and easier for it to obtain the information it needs to progress a case.

By the end of 2019/20 the Pensions Ombudsman wants no more than 10 per cent of open cases to have been ongoing for more than 12 months.

This comes after the service missed its complaints handling targets in 2018/19 by 9 per cent, when a drop in adjudicator numbers resulted in it closing fewer investigations than originally planned.

According to its annual report, published in July, it completed 1,268 investigations in 2018/19, excluding early resolution cases.

The ombudsman stated it was unable to reach its target because its adjudicator numbers had dropped by 16 per cent by the end of 2018/19 and it struggled to replace them.

The latest development has been welcomed by advisers who often submit complaints on behalf of their clients.

Tim Morris, independent financial adviser at Russell & Co, said: “If it makes it easier to keep track of a complainant and easily check where it is in the process, that sounds helpful to me.

“Due to the amount of time these things take, keeping clients informed is the principal factor.”

The ombudsman is also planning to redesign and update it website to make it easier for individuals to file a complaint.

The Pensions Ombudsman said: “As well as streamlining our processes, we want to make it easier for our customers to understand how their complaint will be dealt with and what their options are. 

“One of the main ways we will be doing this is by expanding our digitalisation programme.

"This will include a major overhaul of our website to give our customers the tools and information they need to decide their next steps.”

According to its plan, IT developments and telecommunication services are expected to cost the Pension Ombudsman £751,000 in 2019/20 but this is expected to drop to £654,000 in 2020/21.

Meanwhile, to ensure a quicker service without the loss of quality the ombudsman is working with regulators and government bodies to develop information-sharing agreements.

The ombudsman said: “We will continue to develop strong relationships with strategic partners such as the Financial Conduct Authority, The Pensions Regulator, Financial Ombudsman Service, Money and Pensions Service, Pension Protection Fund and the Department for Work and Pensions. 

“By working collaboratively in areas such as clearer signposting, information-sharing agreements and pursuing the required legislative change; we can make real improvements in dispute resolution for everyone.”