Huge delay in pension complaint cost thousands of families ‘a lot of’ money


Pension complaint: Thousands of savers could be left “significantly” out of pocket after lengthy delays in pension complaints, experts have warned.

The Pensions Ombudsman is now advising some customers they may have to wait up to three years for their case to be looked at, The Sun has learned.


Nearly a third of customers are waiting for more than a year for their case to be resolved

The Pensions Ombudsman is an impartial organization sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that resolves customer complaints against pension providers.

For example, it may investigate long delays related to your pension without reasonable cause, either by your pension scheme or by your employer.

This is distinct from the Financial Ombudsman Service, which resolves disputes between financial firms and a wider range of customers.

In the past, demand on the organization has been relatively low, with it typically handling a few thousand cases a year.

But in the past year, there has been a significant increase in complaints, with the number of cases increasing by almost a third compared to 2021/22.

It received 7,280 new complaints in 2022/23, up 30% from 5,567 in 2020/21.

It is understood this has created a huge backlog of cases, with almost a third of customers now waiting for more than a year for their complaint to be resolved.

In another extreme case seen by The Sun, a customer complaining about a pension transfer was told she would have to wait another two years to be allocated a case handler after already waiting 12 months.

Pension transfers are where you move your pension from one provider or scheme to another or merge multiple pension pots.

In this case, the customer was complaining about a delay in moving from her “defined benefit” pension – where you receive an income for life – to a personal pension.

When the transfer came months later than expected, she says she was underpaid by thousands of pounds.

The customer was advised that she could use the Ombudsman’s “Early Resolution Service” – an informal service intended to resolve disputes more quickly – but even so, she would still have to wait another 11 months.

As a result of the delay, the client lost the £500 compensation offered by her pension scheme as she could not pay it while the complaint was ongoing.

Rebecca O’Connor, head of public affairs at provider PensionBee, said “a functioning ombudsman is an essential backstop for the pensions sector” and the multi-year delay needs to be urgently addressed.

“If the ombudsman is not able to do his job on time, it affects confidence in the sector,” he said.

“Things sometimes go wrong and savers should be able to trust that if this happens to them, they can always go to the ombudsman for help resolving it as a last resort.”

Ms O’Connor said the biggest risk of delays in pension transfer complaints is that customers could be left out of pocket if they are making transfers to boost their finances.

For example, they may be transferring to a plan with lower fees and may have to pay higher fees than they expected.

They may also lag market performance, causing them to lose valuable retirement income.

“If delays in complaint resolution take years, the financial impact could be significant,” Ms O’Connor said.

A spokesperson for the Pensions Ombudsman (TPO) told The Sun that “reducing historic waiting times is a top priority” for the organisation.

“In recent years, TPOs have seen a steady increase in demand for their services,” he said.

“As a small organization with limited funding, this has resulted in customer wait times for our free service being longer than we expected.

“The TPO has delivered service improvements and efficiencies which are having a positive impact. The TPO continues to work with the DWP to reduce waiting times and plan further service improvements.”

The organization has already more than doubled the number of cases solved last year compared to the previous year, with 7,784 cases closed in 2022/23 compared to 3,118 in 2021/22.

How do I complain to the Pensions Ombudsman?

If you are or were a member of an occupational or personal pension scheme the TPO may be able to help you.

An occupational pension plan is a pension you are automatically enrolled in when you join a company as an employee.

This could be a “defined benefit” or “final salary” plan, where you get a guaranteed income in retirement, or a “defined contribution” plan, where you build up a reserve of money.

A personal pension is one you set up for yourself, for example, if you are self-employed.

If you are the beneficiary of someone else’s pension plan, for example, if you get divorced or a relative dies, a TPO can also help.

Examples of things you can complain about to your provider include:

  • spending too much time doing something for no good reason
  • fail to do something they should have done
  • not following one’s own rules or laws
  • break promise
  • giving false or misleading information
  • not making good decisions

The TPO cannot investigate complaints about your state pension.

If you are not sure whether you can make a complaint, you can contact the ombudsman to discuss your case by calling 0800 917 4487 or emailing

To make a formal complaint, you must submit an application along with any relevant documents.

To get started, visit:

What are the different types of pension?

We summarize the main types of pensions and how they differ:

  • personal pension or Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP) – This is probably the most flexible type of pension as you can choose your own provider and how much you will invest.
  • workplace pension – The government has made it mandatory for employers to automatically enroll you into your workplace pension unless you opt out of it.
    These so-called defined contribution (DC) pensions are usually chosen by your employer and you won’t be able to change it. The minimum contribution is 8%, with employees contributing 5% (1% in tax relief) and employers 3%.
  • final salary pension – This is also a workplace pension but here, what you get in retirement is decided based on your salary, and you will be paid a fixed amount every year when you retire. This is often referred to as a gold-plated pension or a defined benefit (DB) pension. But these are no longer generally offered by employers.
  • new state pension – This is the amount the state pays to people who reach state pension age after 6 April 2016. The maximum payment is £203.85 per week and you will need 35 years of National Insurance contributions to achieve it. You need at least ten years to qualify for anything.
  • basic state pension – If you reach state pension age on or before April 2016, you will get the basic state pension. The full amount is £156.20 per week and you will need 30 years of National Insurance contributions to get it. If you have a basic state pension you may also get a top-up, known as an additional or second state pension. People who have made National Insurance contributions under both the original and new state pension will get a combination of both schemes.

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