The Pensions Ombudsman (PO) has experienced a 240% increase in the number of new investigations opened in relation to suspected pension liberation.
Its annual report for 2014/15, published on 2 July, showed it opened 177 pension liberation cases last year compared to 52 in the previous 12 months.
Most liberation complaints were about delayed or rejected transfer requests because the transferring scheme believed it was not in the member's best interests, in particular because of tax reasons, investment risk, or over a fear of scams.
The total number of new investigations launched last year was up 21% to 1,281, with the PO warning it was not able to complete as many investigations as it took on.
This was partly because it failed to close as many pension liberation cases as expected, but also due to a lack of staffing as it struggled to find people with the right skills and abilities to replace recent departures.
The majority (14.8%) of new investigations were related to incorrect or missing benefits, or benefits that were paid late or not at all, with pension liberation coming in second at 13.8%.
Newly-appointed PO Anthony Arter (pictured) said: "As can be seen from the steady increase in the number of complaints, the challenge over the next year will be to reduce the backlog ensuring that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner whilst maintaining the quality of the process and decisions made.
"This trend is likely to continue with increased public awareness, issues concerning pension flexibility and auto enrolment. Also, should a secondary annuity market be introduced, there may be complaints arising from the ability to assign annuities."
Publishing a factsheet on redress for non-financial injustice last month, Arter introduced a minimum compensation level of £500 for "inconvenience" or "distress" caused by maladministration.
- A 21% year-on-year increase in new investigations to a total of 1,281
- About 177 of new investigations were related to pension liberation
- This was a 240% increase in pension liberation cases, from 52 the year before
- Investigations ended in the year took an average of 9.8 months to complete
- Some 72% of investigations were dealt with in less than a year, down from 80% in 2013/14
- The main source of new investigations was in relation to incorrect benefits, missing benefits or benefits that were paid late or not at all
- Pension liberation was the second most prevalent area for new investigations, accounting for 13.8% of all cases
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