Around 90% of TPO cases concluded without ombudsman intervention

Around 90 per cent of cases heard by The Pensions Ombudsman are concluded without the
intervention of the pensions ombudsman, Anthony Arter, himself taking part.

Publishing its annual report for 2018/19, yesterday, 18 July, TPO highlighted that it has been a year of transformation at the watchdog service, against a backdrop of increased demand.

The ombudsman stressed that it has made improvements to the customer journey by resolving disputes and completing investigations at the earliest possible stage. TPO stated hearing more cases without Arter’s involvement, makes it quicker and easier for all parties involved.

Over the past year, TPO experienced an increase of 5 per cent in traditional investigations, but it has also dealt with an additional 3,526 early resolution dispute. This means TPO’s output has tripled when compared with last year.

Commenting, Arter said: “It has been another incredibly busy and exciting year for us as the changes from 2017/18 have had a chance to bed in. This is our first Annual Report to include the work of the Early Resolution Team that incorporates 240 volunteer pension specialists.

“Although we have seen only a modest increase in the number of complaints accepted for
investigation, the number of early resolution cases we took on was 50% higher than anticipated, meaning our output has tripled overall.”

Furthermore, he said TPO’s expanded remit and associated increase in headcount have necessitated an ongoing review of its internal systems and processes to make sure it has the right resource in place to respond to its customers’ needs.

“Through improving our processes, we have successfully maintained an average time of 5.3 months to complete new investigations and more cases than ever before (almost 90%) are being resolved at an earlier stage without the need for an ombudsman’s involvement; making it quicker and easier for all parties concerned,” he added.

TPO received 8,205 phone enquiries and 5,759 written enquiries during the year, taking on 1,528 new investigations. It completed 1,268 investigations, resolved 2,165 early resolution cases and 1,361 written quick responses (complaints that are clearly resolvable with the minimum of intervention).

Eighty per cent of cases were resolved informally by its adjudicators with a further 8 per cent being resolved without an ombudsman’s decision; meaning almost 90 per cent were resolved without the need for an ombudsman’s intervention. Twenty-eight per cent of cases formally decided by an ombudsman were upheld or partly upheld.

In addition, cases concerning the actions of the Pension Protection Fund continue to form a small part of its work, with 13 new referrals and 5 accepted for investigation in the year. Complaints about failure to act on instructions, transfers (such as the calculation or payment of transfer values) and the incorrect calculation of benefits continued to be the most common topics of completed investigations.

New investigations were completed in an average of 5.3 months, against a target of 6 months.

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