The pensions ombudsman (PO) has ordered County Tyre to backdate payments to a member after it found they were wrongly stopped.
In the determination on 12 January the ombudsman Anthony Arter (pictured above) upheld a complaint from Royston Muller that he stopped receiving his pension payments from the County Tyre Retirement Benefit Scheme in November 2013. Muller should have been receiving an annual pension of £969.24, split into 12 monthly payments of £80.77.
Arter said that County Tyre wrongly stopped payments and concluded the company was obligated to pay Muller his pension. Arter ordered the company to pay Muller £1,000 for distress and inconvenience and to reinstate payments from November 2013, with interest.
Muller, who retired in 1988, said he had phoned County Tyres numerous times to ask why his payments had stopped but did not receive an answer. He then wrote to the employer on 1 September 2015.
County Tyre managing director Rob Freeman responded to
Muller in a letter dated 7 September 2015, to say the scheme had been wound up and was therefore no longer required to comply with the requirements of the Pensions Act 1995. He also said that when he bought the company in July 2013 he was unaware of an existing pension scheme.
The ombudsman was given evidence of a trustee meeting that occurred on 24 May 2000. The minutes showed that most of the scheme's assets had been distributed, which would allow the winding up of the scheme to proceed. However, those minutes also showed that the trustees had decided it would be uneconomic to buyout the scheme at that time.
Freeman cited a letter from the Occupational Pensions Regulatory Authority in February 2002 that concluded that the scheme wind up was considered valid. However the letter also noted that the trustees had decided that the company was now responsible for paying pensions rather than the scheme.
Arter said in the determination: "The scheme booklet says that the scheme pension was payable for life from the date of retirement. So in effect a promise was made to pay a pension which is enforceable."
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