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TPAS and the Pensions Ombudsman

The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and the Pensions Ombudsman play very different roles in the resolution of problems, complaints and disputes concerning pension plans.

TPAS

TPAS gets involved before the Pensions Ombudsman, who is normally the final arbiter in the matter. TPAS does not have any statutory powers and can only effect a resolution through persuasion and conciliation. The Pensions Ombudsman on the other hand has similar powers to a court of law.

Most TPAS advisers are volunteers drawn from the pension industry who carry out this service free of charge in their own time. Their first task is to gather as much information as possible from you and all other parties involved. The TPAS service is independent of both sides to a complaint. If our adviser, in the light of the information available, does not believe you have a sustainable case, they will tell you this, explain why this conclusion has been reached and return the file to the office for closing.

No opinion expressed by us is in any way legally binding and you still have the right to take your case to the Pensions Ombudsman, as long as it is within his jurisdiction.

If our adviser believes you have a case, they will assist you and the other parties to come to a resolution. This may result in you getting everything you want but it may involve a compromise and a negotiated settlement. Whatever our adviser's opinion, you are still free to take your case to the Pensions Ombudsman at any time, as long as it is within his jurisdiction.

While the majority of complaints investigated by TPAS are handled by volunteers, they are expected to maintain certain standards on progressing cases. Generally we expect all items of correspondence to be acted upon in a reasonable time and that you are updated with progress at least every eight weeks.

If you are unhappy with the service you receive from a TPAS adviser please let us know. If you wish to make a formal complaint about the service (but not the opinion given) please write to the Head of Corporate Services.

Generally case papers are kept for four years unless they have been passed to the Office of the Pensions Ombudsman or the Financial Ombudsman Service. Complaints should however be made within twelve months of your adviser's last involvement with your case.

If, after investigating your case, our volunteer adviser believes a referral of your case to the Pensions Ombudsman may be beneficial, the file will be returned to our office. We will carry out an independent review of the file and provide an expert second opinion. While this will usually confirm the view of the adviser, sometimes the office view will be different. If the office agrees that there is a case to be determined, they will help you present your complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman.

The Pensions Ombudsman

Complaints to the Pensions Ombudsman must be presented on his official complaint form, which we will provide if you do not already have a copy. If your complaint relates to a workplace scheme and one of the respondents you cite is the scheme trustees or scheme manager, then the Pensions Ombudsman can only investigate after you have used the scheme's internal dispute resolution process. This is a statutory requirement. We can give you guidance on how to do this.

On receipt of your form, the Pensions Ombudsman's office will ask us to pass over your case file prior to their investigation. The Pensions Ombudsman will reach his own decision on your case based upon his interpretation of your legal rights. Following his investigation, the Pensions Ombudsman will decide your complaint or dispute. This decision will be totally independent of any opinion given by TPAS on your case. His decision is final and binding on all the parties to the complaint or dispute. It can be enforced in the courts. His decision can only be changed by appealing to the appropriate court on a point of law.

Time limit

You should write to the Pensions Ombudsman within three years of the
matter you are complaining about or disputing. If you did not know about the matter at the time, the three-year limit runs from the time you knew or ought to have known.

The Pensions Ombudsman may extend the time limit if the complaint is made outside the three-year period, but only if he thinks that any delay beyond three years was reasonable. In particular, he may treat time spent using an internal dispute resolution procedure and/or being assisted by TPAS as a good reason for delaying complaining to him.

However, if there is a delay between us closing our file and you lodging a
complaint with the Pensions Ombudsman, that time will count towards the three-year limit.

The onus is on you and not the TPAS adviser to ensure that you comply with the Pensions Ombudsman's time limit. Most of our cases do not end up with the Pensions Ombudsman but if you do think your case could possibly do so, please make sure you do so within the three-year time limit. If you have any questions about this, your adviser will try to guide you.

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