BT will not be able to swap the index used to uprate part of its pension scheme after the Supreme Court denied permission to appeal, closing all legal avenues.
Members in Section C of the BT Pension Scheme (BTPS) will continue to receive uplifts to their benefits in line with the Retail Prices Index (RPI) rather than the generally-lower Consumer Prices Index (CPI).
The two courts' rulings had revolved around interpretation of the scheme rules, which deem a swap permissible where "the government's general (all items) index of retail prices … ceases to be published or becomes appropriate" in which case "the principal company, in consultation, with the trustees" can decide to us another measure related to "the cost of living".
The High Court had ruled there had been no substantial changes to RPI to make it inappropriate, despite the national statistician derecognising it as an official statistic in 2013.
Prospect, a union representing some of the scheme members, welcomed the Supreme Court's decision, which is estimated to cost the employer around £2bn.
National secretary Noel McClean said: "We welcome this decision by the Supreme Court that prevents a blatant attempt at cutting the value of members' pensions in retirement by tens of thousands of pounds [each]. This is a victory for members of Section C of the BPTS that finally brings this matter to a close after a long and protracted legal battle."
A BT spokesperson added: "While we are disappointed, we do, of course, accept the Supreme Court's decision."
Sections A and B of the scheme were switched to CPI in 2010 alongside public sector schemes and deferred members in Section C. A further cohort of the sections 45,000 members were also swapped to CPI last year when the scheme closed to future accrual.
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