News type:
Wed 27 Jul 2016

The Pensions Ombudsman Service is rarely a party to an appeal against one of its own determinations. If permitted by the court, we can be a party to an appeal; and although we have no right as such it is expected that permission will be freely given.

Our practice as to whether to appear at appeals has varied over time. The Pensions Ombudsman, Anthony Arter, has continued the practice of his predecessor, by normally only appearing at appeals which raise questions affecting our legal jurisdiction or our office procedures.

Following the appeal case of Hughes v Royal London earlier this year and its wider implications, the Pensions Ombudsman decided it would be timely to review his position on when to apply to participate in an appeal.

Royal London did not wish to make representations on the statutory transfer point but did so simply because it was instructed by the court. When the role of the Pensions Ombudsman was established by Parliament in 1990 the intention was for the Ombudsman to be an accessible alternative to the Courts.

Our practice of looking to intervene will now be extended beyond participating in an appeal which raises questions affecting our legal jurisdiction or internal procedures. Our participation will be more pro-active and will be considered against the backdrop of seeking to assist the court.

Examples of increased participation may include where the decision could have a wider impact on the pensions industry, such as pension liberation or auto-enrolment, or where there is a significant concern over access to justice and participation is necessary to properly present and argue the points – the Principle of Equality of Arms.

Each case will be individually considered. The Pensions Ombudsman will not look to participate in all appeals or to set any precedent when making a decision about participating.

Claire Ryan, Legal Director at the Pensions Ombudsman Service said, “Widening the circumstances where the Ombudsman may look to intervene in appeals of determinations was carefully considered and is supported by the Department for Work and Pensions. We believe that the pensions industry and parties to complaints will welcome the change.”