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How we will deal with your complaint

In the first instance if you have a problem then please contact the member of staff or the department that you originally dealt with to discuss your concerns. We will always take seriously any dissatisfaction with our service and the member of staff may well be able to deal with your concerns there and then.  If we need to investigate in more detail the issues you have raised we will advise you of this and provide a written response.

If you remain dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled and you decide you wish to escalate to a formal complaint (the scope of which is set below), please submit your complaint in writing to the corporate secretary.  Please list your main areas of concern and include all information relevant to your complaint. Contact details are as follows:

The Corporate Secretary
The Pensions Regulator
Napier House
Trafalgar Place
Brighton
BN1 4DW

Email: complaints@thepensionsregulator.gov.uk

This document outlines what is a formal complaint and how we will deal with your complaint. It also provides information about the restrictions we work under regarding providing information, what we mean by a ‘risk based Regulator’, and other sources of help and advice that may be useful to you.

What is a formal complaint about the regulator?

A formal complaint  about the regulator is one that is directed against us rather than against any other organisation, firm or pension scheme.

The regulator can deal with any complaint about the way in which we have carried out, or failed to carry out, our role. This includes complaints about mistakes or lack of care, unreasonable delay, unprofessional behaviour, bias or lack of integrity by the regulator and its staff.

If you would like to raise any issues or concerns with the regulator which do not come under the above headings please contact us

The Pensions Regulator operates a two-stage internal formal complaints process.

Stage 1

The corporate secretariat team will acknowledge receipt of your complaint within five working days of receipt. The corporate secretary will then review all the information we have about your complaint including looking at:

  • whether staff have taken the right actions procedurally
  • whether staff have been courteous and fair
  • whether there has been any unreasonable delay or withholding of information.

The corporate secretary will write to inform you of their findings in writing within 20 working days. If a response will take longer than this, we will keep you informed of progress, the reasons for any delay and when we will reply in full.

If the corporate secretary is the subject of a complaint, the chair of the regulator will look into the matter.

Our response will include if appropriate an explanation of what went wrong, if necessary an indication of what steps have been or will be taken to put matters right, and whether your complaint is upheld or not. If your complaint is not upheld, our response will explain why.

Stage 2

If you are dissatisfied with the corporate secretary's reply you may write to the chair of the regulator, and ask them to review the matter. The chair will acknowledge your stage 2 complaint within fiveworking days and will endeavour to reply within 20 working days.

Timescales

There are time limits that apply to making a formal complaint. However, we understand that each case is different and as such these time limits may be extended where necessary. As a guide, they are as follows:

  • a stage 1 complaint can be made at any time. However, if it is about a particular incident it is best if the complaint is made as soon as possible after the event.
  • a stage 2 complaint should be made within 28 days of the date of the stage 1 reply from the regulator.

Parliamentary Ombudsman

The Parliamentary Ombudsman can also investigate complaints against The Pensions Regulator. Normally the Ombudsman will only accept a case if our internal complaints procedure has been exhausted. Complaints can be referred to the Ombudsman by writing to your MP.

What is not a formal complaint about the regulator?

We do understand that sometimes complaints are made to the regulator because of a misunderstanding about what the regulator can and cannot do.

If you have a query or problem with your pension scheme you should always begin by trying to sort it out with the scheme itself. You should contact the scheme trustees as they are responsible for running the scheme. In many cases they will be able to help sort out the problem. If you do not know who the trustees/managers of the scheme are, the personnel office of the employer should be able to identify them to you. The trustees/scheme managers may delegate day-to-day responsibility to a third party and might suggest you write to that party.

If this does not resolve the problem, the pension scheme will have a complaints procedure you can use, called a dispute resolution procedure. This formal dispute procedure will tell you who will deal with your complaint and within what timescales. You may also contact the Pensions Advisory Service.

If you believe your scheme may not be complying with pensions legislation, you can report the scheme to us.  However, our regulatory investigation will not necessarily resolve your own complaint against your scheme.

There are some things that the regulator cannot help directly with:

  • we are unable to help you with questions about state pensions
  • we are unable to intervene in disputes between individual pension scheme members and scheme trustees, managers or employers
  • we cannot help members with claims for compensation
  • we are not responsible for making or drafting pensions legislation.

Pensions reform and automatic enrolment

From 2012, changes to pensions law will affect all employers in the UK. Employers must automatically enrol certain members of their workforce into a pension scheme and as make a contribution towards it. The regulator has new powers to ensure compliance.

Plain English

Wherever possible we will use plain English in all our replies, although sometimes we may need to refer to pensions legislation.

Data Protection Act

The regulator recognises the importance of the correct and lawful processing of personal data. We adhere to the principles set out in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).

If we think any aspect of your complaint should be handled by another organisation, we will not pass any information to them until we have asked your permission.

You may request details of personal information which the regulator holds about you under the DPA. If you think any personal information we hold about you is incorrect or incomplete, please contact us.

Before you contact us

Before you contact us the following information may be of help to you.

Disclosure of information by the regulator

The regulator strives to be open and transparent regarding regulatory action, within the constraints of pension legislation. However, it is governed by legislation that controls what kinds of information we can disclose, including:

  • The Pensions Act 2004
  • The Freedom of Information Act 2000
  • The Data Protection Act 1998
  • The Human Rights Act 1998

The main aim of these disclosure restrictions is to protect individuals (including, for example, pension scheme trustees) from inappropriate release of personal data, to protect companies and individuals from inappropriate release of information given in confidence, and to maintain the integrity of our regulatory investigations.

The Pensions Act 2004 places restrictions on the release of information gathered in the course of our regulatory investigations. Information relating to any investigation or potential investigation carried out by the regulator may be classed as ‘restricted information’ within the meaning of section 82 of the Pensions Act 2004. Section 82(5) provides that it is a criminal offence to disclose such information inappropriately.

This means that often we are unable to go into specifics as to the actions the regulator may or may not have taken in relation to a scheme, or give details as to what information we have gathered.

The regulator's risk-based approach

The regulator is funded by a levy on the schemes it regulates. Given these finite resources its approach is necessarily risk-based, focusing on education and enablement, with enforcement where appropriate enabling the regulator to meet its statutory objectives. 

In order to meet our regulatory objectives we have a range of powers. The use of our powers will depend on the circumstances of the breach and with the aim of keeping schemes on the right track for the long term.

We have provided guidance on our website as to how we put into effect our risk-based approach if we identify a possible problem with a scheme. This is also relevant if a concern or complaint has been raised with us regarding a scheme. We also want to ensure that the cause of a problem is eliminated, so that the situation won’t continue or recur later. We look to match our approach to the nature and source of the cause. The regulator actively promotes high standards of administration and provides practical guidance to trustees and administrators to enable them to achieve these standards.

By applying a consistent set of risk-based criteria to the circumstances of individual schemes the regulator aims to target its resources on achieving the best overall outcome for scheme members.

Further guidance on the website identifies what the regulator considers to be a ‘risk’ - that is any situation that may significantly reduce or prevent payment of the benefits due to members - and gives the following as examples:

  • inadequate funding
  • incomplete or inaccurate record-keeping
  • lack of knowledge or understanding on the part of trustees
  • about their role and duties
  • possible dishonesty or fraud.

When assessing a scheme’s level of risk the regulator considers how likely is it that an event will occur that will affect the security of members’ benefits, and considers what would be the impact of the event, given the nature, size and status of the scheme and employer.

The use of our powers will depend on the circumstances of the breach and with the aim of keeping schemes on the right track for the long term. The regulator therefore considers all reported breaches and issues of governance seriously.

Other sources of help and advice

The Pensions Advisory Service

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) provides free help and advice to people with queries about their occupational, personal or stakeholder pensions. It has a telephone helpline which is open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. The service may be able to help you directly or, depending on the nature of your query, they will advise you which other organisation can help. 

The service's advisers will also try to help you sort out problems you may have with the way your pension scheme is run. In some cases the adviser may correspond with the scheme on your behalf to help resolve matters. These could include discrepancies with benefit payments or a disagreement with certain decisions made by the trustees. The service cannot normally help if you are simply disappointed with the investment performance of your pension fund.

Tel: 0845 601 2923
Email: enquiries@pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

Pensions Ombudsman

The Pensions Ombudsman deals with complaints about the running of pension schemes that have not been resolved by the scheme's own complaints procedure or by the Pensions Advisory Service. The Pensions Advisory Service can provide advice on taking your complaint to the Ombudsman. However, even if they do not advise this, you may still go to the Ombudsman if you wish.

The Pensions Ombudsman has the power to make a final decision on a complaint. They will investigate the case and reach a decision that is legally binding on you and the scheme. Possible outcomes may be to confirm a scheme's actions were correct or to direct a party to pay compensation where the Ombudsman considers there was maladministration by the scheme.

Tel: 020 7834 9144
Email: enquiries@pensions-ombudsman.org.uk

Pension Tracing Service

Contact the Pension Tracing Service online to help you find a lost pension, if you have lost touch with your scheme when you changed jobs, or if a former employer has changed its name. This could mean that you cannot claim your pension when you retire.

Pension Protection Fund

The Pension Protection Fund (PPF) was established to pay compensation to members of eligible defined benefit pension schemes where the sponsoring employer becomes insolvent and the scheme is under funded. The PPF is a statutory fund run by the Board of the Pension Protection Fund, a statutory corporation established under the provisions of the Pensions Act 2004. It began work on 6 April 2005.

If you have a query about whether you may be entitled to compensation from the PPF you should, in the first instance, contact your pension scheme trustees.

Prudential Regulation Authority

The Prudential Regulation Authortity is a subsidiary of the Bank of England, and is responsible for promoting the stable and prudent operation of the financial system through regulation of all deposit-taking institutions, insurers and investment banks.

Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority is responsible for regulation of conduct in retail, as well as wholesale, financial markets and the infrastructure that supports those markets. It also has responsibility for the prudential regulation of firms that do not fall under the Prudential Regulation Authority’s scope.

Financial Ombudsman Service

The Financial Ombudsman Service can investigate a complaint about the selling or marketing of a pension scheme when a consumer is not satisfied with the way the firm has handled the complaint.

Financial Services Compensation Scheme

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) is the UK's statutory fund of last resort for customers of financial services firms. This means that FSCS can pay compensation to consumers if a financial services firm is unable, or likely to be unable, to pay claims against it.

For pensions this may be, for example, where a consumer has a complaint about the selling or marketing of a personal pension, and the firm has gone out of business and is unable to pay claims against it, or where a pension provider goes out of business and is unable to meet its commitments to policyholders.

The FSCS is an independent body, set up under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (FSMA). The FSCS does not charge individual consumers for using its service.

GOV.UK

GOV.UK is the place to find government services and information. Workplace and personal pensions includes automatic enrolment, lost pensions and retirement.

© The Pensions Regulator