Ombudsman swamped by 71pc rise in complaints last year
PENSIONS ombudsman Paul Kenny revealed yesterday that he faces the prospect of being "totally swamped" by the surge in complaints to his office.
There was a 71pc rise in the number of complaints to the ombudsman last year.
Some 1,760 new complaints were received in 2009.
Because of the massive increase in workload, Mr Kenny said that his office was putting more emphasis on giving early advice to both sides in a dispute and mediating settlements, rather than letting the dispute develop to a stage where formal investigation and determination was required. Otherwise he faces "the prospect of being totally swamped".
The largest number of complaints related to how pension benefits were calculated, with fund values the next biggest reason why people complain.
But mediation had proven to be a successful way to deal with the sharp rise in the number of complaints, Mr Kenny (right) said.
"I am very pleased that this approach has proven so successful. So much so, that despite the significant increase in the number of complaints, we closed 2009 with 16pc less investigations on hand than at the beginning of the year."
Mr Kenny said that the enormous increase in complaints in 2008 and 2009 might begin to level off.
"The massive shocks to the pensions industry and the widespread publicity which resulted meant that people were much more aware of the need to monitor their pension arrangements very carefully.
"The old practice of leaving the pension to look after itself is now well and truly buried, and I am very pleased that the level of interest and understanding in the area has grown enormously. Vigilance is key."
Under the Pensions Act 1990, the Pensions Ombudsman investigates and decides on complaints and disputes relating to pensions. He is required to act impartially and is assisted by nine employees.