Old British Steel Pension Scheme (PO-20199)
2. Open Trustees Limited
Mr S’ complaint is as follows:-
The information that was available; the uncertainty of the OBSPS’, and TSUK’s future, prompted him to transfer.
The Cash Equivalent Transfer Value (CETV) he received should have been calculated on the basis applicable from 1 April 2017, rather than the basis used prior to 1 April 2017. His request for a statement of entitlement was made after the Trustee had made the decision to amend the CETV calculation basis with effect from 1 April 2017, but his CETV was calculated using the pre-April 2017 basis and issued prior to 1 April 2017.
The Trustee should have waited and calculated his CETV on the post April 2017 basis, rather than “rushing” to issue it.
The information the Trustee gave him in the covering letter with his statement of entitlement, was not appropriate and, if it had been, he would have delayed his transfer. Mr S contends that the Trustee has failed: to act consistently; to exercise due skill and care in its administration of the OBSPS; and to act in the best interests of its members.
Summary of the Ombudsman’s Determination and reasons
The complaint is not upheld against the Trustee because:-
The information the Trustee provided to members in relation to the OBSPS’ future was necessary to keep members abreast of developments so that they were given the opportunity to assess their circumstances and take appropriate action if they considered it essential.
The Trustee acted properly in supplying Mr S’ CETV prior to 1 April 2017, rather than waiting for the new basis to come in to effect. The Trustee could not guarantee that Mr S’ CETV would be issued on the new CETV calculation basis before the three-month statutory deadline for issuing a CETV passed, and there were no grounds on which the Trustee could have requested an extension to this deadline.
The CETV calculation basis applicable when Mr S was provided with his guaranteed CETV is a matter for the Trustee and any calculation correctly applying that CETV calculation basis was not maladministration. I have not found any error in the calculation of Mr S’ CETV, it was calculated using the agreed basis at the point of the calculation.
The Rules that govern the OBSPS do not provide that a CETV shall be recalculated if the CETV calculation basis is changed at a future date. Nor is it reasonable to expect the Trustee to recalculate CETVs already paid and increase such payments (or conversely, as the case may be, decrease such payments and seek repayment of any funds already paid, in excess of those calculated on the lower basis). In cases such as Mr S’, in which he exercised his right to transfer by requesting a transfer on the former CETV basis, I cannot find maladministration in the Trustee’s completion of the transfer out, as the Trustee is bound to action the member’s statutory right to transfer, which it did.
The notification requirements in respect of the OBSPS, with regard to this complaint, were either met or not applicable. There is no requirement for the Trustee to notify members of its intention to update the SIP or CETV calculation basis, nor is there any requirement to offer members the option to obtain a CETV on the new calculation basis if they have already been provided with a CETV on the former calculation basis.
The Trustee was proactive in providing information that anticipated potential detrimental outcomes for members. The information that the Trustee provided with Mr S’ statement of entitlement and covering letter, on 29 March 2017, was clear and explained his options taking into account the fact that his CETV had been issued on the pre-April 2017 basis. Mr S had sufficient information to enable him to make an informed decision whether to proceed with the transfer on the former calculation basis or to obtain a CETV calculation on the new basis.
Guaranteeing that CETVs would increase is not within the Trustee’s remit. Moreover, in doing so, the Trustee could have provided a CETV in excess of that to which the member was entitled, potentially to the detriment of other members as the excess would have been paid from the OBSPS’ funds
I find that the Trustee has carried out its duties concerning Mr S’ transfer benefits consistently, with due skill and care.
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