Just 14.5 per cent of 2019 mis-selling claims made by women – Pension Claim Consulting

Fewer than one in five pension compensation claims came from women in 2019, analysis of Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) data has found.

Analysis by Pension Claim Consulting managing director, Sarah Stokes, showed that of the 275 complaints made about mis-sold pensions last year, just 40 (14.5 per cent) came from women.

Stokes asked FOS for the release of the official figures after discussing mis-selling issues with women who were unaware they could claim compensation when they had been mis-sold a pension investment.

She argued that women “aren’t seeking financial redress when they should”, emphasising that whilst the situation has been “well known” within the industry for some time, these “concrete figures” now truly illustrate the problem.

Stokes has since announced plans to launch a task force alongside prominent pensions industry figures, to raise awareness of pension mis-selling amongst women and to uncover the true number of women being mis-sold to.

She added: “We would like to see this matter investigated by the financial regulators and at the very least, an awareness campaign put in place.

“Let’s not forget almost half of all personal pensions are held by women, so the disparity between men and women claiming, is quite striking.

“Over the past few years I’ve lost count of the number of women I’ve spoken with who say they were contacted out of the blue by an adviser who went for the hard sale as soon as they found out they worked in the NHS or teaching profession. Unscrupulous doesn’t cover it.”

Campaigners have argued that the true number of women who have been mis-sold pensions is likely to be “way higher” as they are often targeted if they hold a defined benefit (DB) pension.

Indeed, a report by the Pensions Policy Institute revealed earlier this year that women are “disproportionately” hired in sectors with access to a DB pension scheme, particularly through the public sector.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also warned earlier this year that unsuitable transfers from DB pension schemes could result in collective losses of up to £20bn over five years for consumers, with over three-quarters of firms with DB transfer advice permission potentially giving harmful advice.

In response to a query on the Stoke’s FOS findings, the FCA stated that it does not currently keep records of the number of women who have been mis-sold pensions, although a spokesperson clarified that this could change in coming months after the issue was highlighted.

Speaking to Pension Claims Consulting, Work and Pensions Select Committee Stephen Timms, also described the findings as “troubling” and noted the benefits of utilising gender monitoring, adding that may be an issue that falls under the remit of the committee’s recently announced pension freedoms inquiry.

He stated: “We don’t know how many scam sales are made to women as opposed to men. We need to know how to find that out. The figure of 14.5 per cent for claims [to the FOS] for mis-sold pensions looks troubling.

“To me it sounds useful to gender monitor for pension mis-selling and compensation applications. If it is the case that women are taking less advantage than they should of the help that the FOS provides, then it is certainly something we should look at in the course of our inquiry.”

Campaigners such as Stokes and the Fawcett Society have argued that specific gender monitoring is crucial in helping fight pensions inequality.

Speaking to Pension Claims Consulting, Fawcett Society chief executive, Sam Smethers, added: “Women overall have much less saved in pensions than men, due to a system that does little to remedy a lifetime of earnings lost to the gender pay gap, and to unequal caring responsibilities.

“So for financial advisers to then encourage women to exit the safety of defined benefit pensions and make themselves poorer as a result is completely unacceptable.

“There is a fundamental inequality in our pensions system which is now made worse by this scandal. Regulators and government need to do everything they can to send a message to women who have been conned - there is no shame in it, come forward, and get help."

This follows research by Close Brothers earlier this year, which found that whilst the average pension pot of UK workers at large companies has increased over the past three years, the gender savings gap has continued to widen.

Profile Pensions analysis also revealed that women, on average, enter retirement with 39 per cent less than their male counterparts.

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