Making a complaint about your pension
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman has the power to investigate and determine your complaints concerning disputes of fact or law and errors in relation to occupational pension schemes, Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSA) and Retirement Annuity Contracts (RACs). The Ombudsman has the power to give any directions necessary to resolve the complaint or dispute and can give financial compensation (redress) but this cannot exceed the actual loss of benefit under the occupational pension scheme, Personal Retirement Savings Account or Retirement Annuity Contract. The Ombudsman does not have the power to award legal costs. All decisions made by the Ombudsman are binding between the parties subject to a right of appeal by either party to the High Court.
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 surviving 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, surviving spouse or civil partner of a member or contributor who has died
- A person with an entitlement under a scheme
There are certain time limits for bringing cases to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. These are:
- 6 years from the date of the act that has given rise to your complaint/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.
You can read more information on the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and its services.
There is no charge to bring a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. However, 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 begin by trying to sort it out at a local level with those responsible for the management of the pension scheme, Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) or Retirement Annuity Contract (RAC). Information on the steps involved is available in this 3-step plan on how to complain about financial service providers.
Where the pension scheme, PRSA or RAC has an Internal Disputes Resolution (IDR) procedure, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman cannot investigate the complaint or dispute until the matter has gone through that procedure and the trustees or managers have issued their notice of decision.
Under the Pensions Act, all pension schemes and PRSAs must operate an IDR procedure. Parties are not bound by recommendations arising out of an IDR procedure.
You must give the pensions provider 40 working days to respond to your complaint. If they fail to 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 Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman to follow up on your behalf to get a final response letter.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome when you receive the final response letter, you can refer your complaint back to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. They will then deal with the complaint either informally (using mediation) or formally.
There is a standard complaint form that you must use to lodge your complaint with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. You can either complete the form online or you can download the complaint form (pdf) and submit it by post. Information on the steps involved is available in a 3-step guide on how to complain to the FSPO.
You should enclose all relevant documents and correspondence (copies will be sufficient), including any correspondence with your pension scheme, employer or administrator.
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman will review the information submitted by both parties and adjudicate on the matter. If they uphold a complaint, they may direct the pension provider to rectify the problem or pay you compensation, or both. If they do not uphold your complaint, they will not direct any action. The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman’s decision is binding on you and the pension provider and can only be appealed to the High Court.
Where to make a complaint