UK - A "secretive" consultation paper on changes to the pensions ombudsman's office has angered lawyers who want an industry-wide debate.
Members of the Association of Pensions Lawyers say key figures at the department for work and pensions have held talks with a “select few” from the industry to discuss proposals.
These include the formation of a deputy ombudsman and a new rule which says any party must have court permission to appeal a determination.
The DWP initially denied that any meeting – which APL members described as “secretive” – had been held.
It insisted the only consultation on the ombudsman’s office was included in last year’s pensions Green Paper.
Later, though, the DWP acknowledged a meeting had taken place with “representatives of the pensions industry” to discuss the role of the ombudsman but claimed none of the proposals were a “major policy change”.
But sources have told IPN’s sister publication, Professional Pensions, that the DWP has issued a paper titled Proposals for Changes to Legislation Relating to the Pensions Ombudsman.
Linklaters pensions litigation partner Mark Blyth commented: “We would have thought the DWP would want to have comments from the industry to ensure the proposals are workable in practice.”
Ashurst Morris Crisp senior absticate John Sable agreed but hoped the talks were “an initial step prior to a wider consultation”.
Other proposals include measures to give the ombudsman power to decide all cases on a “fair and reasonable” basis and whether the ombudsman should be able to deal with class actions – something the DWP had previously rejected.
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