Complaints on pension schemes treble

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The Independent Online
COMPLAINTS from pension scheme members to the Occupational Pensions Advisory Service (Opas) nearly trebled last year.

More than 20,000 people contacted Opas in the year to the end of March, an increase of 177 per cent on the previous year, following publicity about the Maxwell scandal and the launch of the Pensions Ombudsman bureau.

Opas, which received government funding under the 1990 Social Security Act, carried out detailed investigations of more than 2,900 complaints, a rise of 241 per cent over the previous year. The organisation was able to resolve disputes in most cases but 47 were referred to the Ombudsman.

There was a worrying number of Maxwell-type cases where funds had been misappropriated. However Margaret Grainger, Opas president, said: 'Although we have got a large caseload, compared to the number of people with pensions rights it is very small. The vast majority of people with pensions are well treated.'

A quarter of inquiries in the year to the end of March involved problems over transfers of pension benefits from one scheme to another. But Opas said in its annual report, published yesterday, that the most significant increase in its workload came from queries related to schemes being wound up. This represented 14 per cent of the caseload last year compared with 4 per cent the previous year.

Opas has told the Social Security Select Committee on pensions that it believes there should be a compensation scheme for people who lose benefits through no fault of their own when there is no fund or employer to meet the liability.

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