TPO partially upholds complaint against Railways Pension Trustee and RPMI

The Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) has partially upheld a complaint against The Railways Pension Trustee and RPMI following the suspension of a member’s pension.

The complaint, lodged by a Mr Y, concerned the completion of a Pensions Security Review Form which requested personal details and a witness signature from the complainant when it was sent out in May 2018.

Mr Y responded that he was unable to complete the form, as he now lived in France where no non-family members were able to act as a witness as they would not be able to confirm his employment history.

As such, he sent the administrator copies of his passport, a bank statement and an electricity bill in an effort to confirm his identity, and requested that a complaint about the forms was considered under the internal dispute resolution procedure (IDRP).

However, as the administrator had not received the completed form by the listed cut-off date of 25 July, Mr Y’s pension was suspended.

While the IDRP did not uphold Mr Y’s complaint, the administrator reinstated his pension from December 2018 and offered him compensation of £250, stating that it had been able to verify his identity using a signature on one of his recent letters.

Following a continued exchange between the complainant and RPMI, the latter offered the increase the level of compensation to £750 and stating that its main concern had been “the security of your pension” but conceding that it could have “taken a more pragmatic approach with regards to confirming your existence”.

TPO’s adjudicator found that, although Mr Y had been informed that his pension would be suspended if he failed to return the form on time, the administrator could have done more to find alternative ways for him to prove his existence, as it was already aware that he was having difficulties with the form.

As such, it was determined that this, and RPMI’s failure to escalate Mr Y’s complaint to stage two despite his clear dissatisfaction with the decision, amounted to maladministration.

Railways Pension Trustee was consequently instructed by a TPO adjudicator to pay Mr Y £1,000, or an extra £750 on top of the amount of compensation already accepted by the complainant, for the serious distress and inconvenience caused.

Mr Y had initially not accepted this award, arguing that the trustee’s implication that £250 had been a sufficient amount to resolve the dispute had been “blatant nonsense” and that the administrator had provided inaccurate information to TPO and failed to treat him with respect.

He had listed £4,000 as an appropriate level of compensation, but the ombudsman agreed with the adjudicator’s decision, noting that awards in excess of £1,000 were for cases where complainants had “suffered severe or exceptional distress and inconvenience” due to maladministration.

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