Pensions Ombudsman says number of complaints will ‘undoubtedly’ increase due to Covid-19

The number of complaints to The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) will “undoubtedly” increase due to the impact of Covid-19, according to Pensions Ombudsman, Anthony Arter.

In response to questions from the Work and Pensions Committee, Arter forecast that the likely increase in scam activity, as fraudsters look to target those struggling financially, would result in an increase in complaints.

“Public sector ombudsmen will be inundated with complaints as a result of Covid-19 and I don’t think pensions will be any exception to that,” Arter stated.

“If you look at the financial strain that people are going to be suffering going forward, and they’ve got a pot of money there in their pension scheme, the big concern is the fraudsters coming in to say ‘we can help you get that money’.”

Furthermore, he noted that struggling employers may, to try and save money, encourage workers to opt out of their auto-enrolment schemes or not put their employees' contributions into the pension scheme.

More people’s health is also likely to be impacted by the virus, which Arter said could lead to an increase in ill health pension claims coming to TPO.

“I think there will a lot of small organisations that turn round to their employees and try and encourage them to opt out of AE, but that is a regulatory matter,” Arter continued.

“I also think there will be those employers that will take the contributions, I’m already seeing a small increase in those from small organisations where they are very hard hit financially by this, and they’ll take those contributions and not pay them across into the pension scheme.

“I am convinced that will happen, almost certain. Then there are others that will be affected by illness because of all of this and make ill health pension claims, and they will increase.”

He added that, although he expected a rise in the number of complaints, they may not come straight away.

“These things are always delayed action, we probably won’t see those complaints coming through maybe for 12 months, maybe less. There’s no increase at this moment but I think that will happen,” he said.

“Undoubtedly there will be an increase in the number of complaints.”

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