Questions Of Cash: Mistakes and delays that left a £15,000 hole in my pension


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The Independent Online

Q. I have had problems with NPI, my pension fund manager, which has taken two and a half months to deal with my request for an annuity. During this process we were informed that the value of my pension fund had fallen by 7.38 per cent. GB, Southampton.

A. You accepted an offer of an annuity from Just Retirement, through the financial advisers Hargreaves Lansdown. But after you accepted the offer, you were unable to get your pension benefits transferred for several weeks to Just Retirement. NPI, part of the Phoenix Group, apologises for these problems and says that these began with a transfer application form not being sent to you because of a problem with its IT system. A further delay followed because you requested your fund value being converted to cash, for you to transfer to Just Retirement. This option was not possible.

However, NPI failed to advise you of this, or reply to your request. NPI should have told you that you could instead switch your pension fund into its Pension Deposit Fund, one of the features of which being that the value of the fund is guaranteed not to fall. Had you been given this option and taken it when you could have done so on 29 July, the value deposited and subsequently transferred to Just Retirement would have been £217,553.69, rather than the £202,998.27 that was transferred.

You should then have had your annuity in place with Just Retirement on 9 August. A Pension Commencement Lump Sum could have been paid to you of £54,388.42, rather than the £50,749.57 that was actually paid to you. In addition, you would have received a gross annual annuity of £12,589.60 payable from 9 August, not the £11,871.96 you have been receiving for the period beginning 16 September.

On this basis, NPI will transfer an additional £10,102.00 to Just Retirement for your pension fund, which will increase your annuity by a gross £59.80 per month. As well as this, you will be paid an extra £3,638.85 as your Pension Commencement Lump Sum. You will also be sent a further £1,614.59 to compensate for the loss of growth and income and for your inconvenience. In total, you are £15,355.44 better off as a result of contacting Questions of Cash.

Q. Early in 2011 we opened an eSaver account with Santander because of its good rate of interest for the first year. All transactions were to be done over the internet, with deposits between £1 and £2,000,000. After we sold our house, we invested nearly £250,000, which was paid into our current account. We tried to transfer the whole sum into our eSaver account, but found we could only transfer £25,000 per day.

After many emails, phone calls and letters we received £50 compensation for lost interest. We were told we could transfer out £175,000 for our new house in one go. But the most we could transfer was £99,999 a time, so it had to be done over two days, again losing interest. We understood the deposit was to be paid by BACS faster payment. The next day we found the amount was over the limit for this, so we had to make a CHAPS payment. The deposit arrived with the solicitors late, so the purchase was delayed two days. The terms and conditions do not make clear these restrictions on the accounts. DM, Yorkshire.

A. Santander spokeswoman said: "For security reasons it may be necessary to carry out additional checks on substantial transfers to help mitigate the risk of fraud. We are sorry that this was not explained clearly when [the reader] contacted us. On this occasion we have fallen short of the service our customers should expect to receive." In recognition of this, Santander is providing an additional goodwill payment of £100, on top of the £50 previously provided, which includes compensation for your lost interest.

Q. My wife and I were booked to fly with BA and Qantas from Edinburgh to New Zealand for our honeymoon, with a three-night stopover in Singapore. The flights out were upgraded as a wedding present. Our flight from Edinburgh to Heathrow was delayed, so we rebooked our Heathrow to Singapore flight to the last of the day.

Despite being promised our flight into Heathrow would be given priority over the departing flight, we missed the connection. We managed to negotiate a flight to Singapore the next morning, but on arrival our luggage was missing. This took so long to confirm that we missed the private transfer to our hotel. Meanwhile, BA had automatically cancelled our onward booking to New Zealand without telling us.

Our travel agent rebooked us, but we had to leave Singapore early and did not use all our hotel booking. Our luggage arrived a week late in New Zealand. I have been refunded by BA for our out-of-pocket expenses, but it refuses to refund the cost of the private transfer that we missed, or the unused hotel in Singapore. We made a claim on our travel insurance, but our insurer imposed a £100 excess. MS, by email.

A. BA apologises for your inconvenience, but declines to increase its compensation to cover the insurance excess. Spokesman Tom Norris says: "After their flight to London was delayed, we arranged for them to be on a later flight. When they missed this flight, too, we arranged for hotel accommodation overnight and they flew the following day. Their bags were then also delayed. Unfortunately this can happen when flights have to be changed at short notice.

We have reimbursed [the reader] for essential items he and his partner had to purchase while without their luggage, £458.13, and have offered [the reader] and his partner 20,000 Avios [loyalty club] points each as a gesture of goodwill – enough for return flights for two on our European network. I regret that British Airways is not liable for any consequential losses that passengers incur as a result of delays or cancellations."

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