UK - The pensions advisory service OPAS and the ombudsman bureau should be scrapped to simplify complaints procedures, law firm Pinsents claims.
Head of strategic development Robin Ellison (pictured) says the disputes system is far too complex. Schemes currently have two internal dispute resolution procedures available to members. And before members resort to the courts, the second tier – OPAS and the ombudsman – is available to them.
Ellison said OPAS and the ombudsman were “sensible” measures when the legal system was too costly for members. But he said the legal system was more accessible now and OPAS and the ombudsman should be replaced by a mediation service run by the new regulator.
He said: “I’m not criticising OPAS, it does sterling work and I commend it. The ombudsman too. But the $1m question is: Do we still need them now things have changed? The option is to get rid of both of them and introduce mediation.
“The reason ombudsmen were invented is because the courts used to be awful. In the last 10 years there’s been a radical reform of the justice system and they are not so now.”
But OPAS chief executive Malcolm McLean thought Ellison had “lost the plot”.
McLean said: “He thinks there are too many cooks involved in pensions and so he wants 500 OPAS volunteers to stand down. It’s a weird thing for anyone to say.”
And CMS Cameron McKenna partner Mark Grant said: “The fact is no amount of mediation will solve many of the cases that end up at the ombudsman.
“By the time most cases get to the ombudsman the parties are in such polarised positions that it’s hard to find an acceptable middle ground.”
Paul Budgen is set to join financial technology and auto-enrolment (AE) firm Smart Pension as director of business development.
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