Making a complaint about your pension
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) has the power to investigate and decide on complaints about occupational pension schemes, Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSAs) and Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs).
The Ombudsman has the power to give any directions necessary to resolve the complaint or dispute. It can give financial compensation (redress) but this cannot exceed the actual loss of benefit under the occupational pension scheme, PRSA or RAC.
The Ombudsman does not have the power to award legal costs. All decisions made by the Ombudsman are binding between the parties. Either party has a right to appeal the decision to the High Court.
Who can complain to the FSPO?
Various people can make pensions complaints to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.
You may be:
- A member, an external member or a former member of a pension scheme
- A dependant of a member who has died
- A contributor to a PRSA
- A personal representative of a member or contributor who has died
- A widow, widower or surviving spouse or civil partner of a member or contributor who has died
- A person with an entitlement under a scheme
Time limits for making a complaint
There are certain time limits for bringing cases to the FSPO. These are:
- 6 years from the date of the act that has given rise to your complaint or dispute
- 3 years from the date that you became aware of or should have become aware of the Act
The Ombudsman has discretion to consider a complaint or dispute outside these timeframes but cannot go back further than 13 April 1996.
There is no charge to bring a complaint to the FSPO. If you choose to hire a solicitor or other professional to bring a complaint to the FSPO on your behalf, then you will have to pay their fees.
If you appeal the Ombudsman’s decision to the High Court and you are not successful, you may have to pay all the legal costs.
How to make a complaint
If you have a complaint or dispute, you should first complain to the provider. It should have a complaints handling process called an Internal Disputes Resolution (IDR) procedure.
The FSPO cannot investigate the complaint or dispute until it has gone through that procedure and a final response is issued.
You must give the pensions provider 40 working days to respond to your complaint. If they do not resolve your complaint, they must give you a final response letter, setting out the steps they have taken.
After 40 working days, if your complaint has not been resolved and you have not received a final response letter, you can then ask the FSPO to follow up on your behalf to get a final response letter.
If your complaint to the provider is not resolved
If you are not satisfied with the outcome when you receive the final response letter, you can refer your complaint back to the FSPO. They will then deal with the complaint either informally (using mediation) or formally.
There is a standard complaint form that you must use to make your complaint to the FSPO. You can either complete the form online or you can contact the FSPO for a complaint form to complete by post. Information on the steps involved is available in a 3-step guide on how to complain to the FSPO.
You should enclose copies of all relevant documents and correspondence, including any correspondence with your pension scheme, employer or administrator.
Decision of the FSPO
The FSPO will review the information submitted by both parties and make a decision. If it upholds a complaint, it may direct the pension provider to rectify the problem or pay you compensation, or both. If it does not uphold your complaint, it will not direct any action. The FSPO's decision is binding on you and the pension provider and can only be appealed to the High Court.
Where to make a complaint