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Investigation process

What stages are involved in the complaint process?

We have to be fair and impartial and look at a problem without taking sides. We will consider information from all the parties involved in a complaint before making a decision, wherever possible.

You can find out below how we investigate a complaint that has been made against you.

What stages are involved in the process?  

When we receive an application there are four stages to the complaint process:

  • Review. We’ll look at the application in more detail and might ask for more information to help us decide whether or not we can deal with the complaint. We might be able to resolve the problem for the complainant at this stage.
  • Investigate. If we can deal with the complaint, it will be passed to an Adjudicator or a Resolution Specialist to investigate.
  • Make an initial decision or resolve the problem. Once we have enough information, the person working on the complaint will give their view on the matter unless they have been able to resolve the problem.
  • Determination. f the problem cannot be resolved through the investigation process, any party to the complaint can ask for the complaint to be considered by the Ombudsman and for a final decision to be made.

Review the application

Before we can look into a problem we need to decide if it’s something we can deal with. We may have to ask you for additional information to help us decide this.

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Usually an application to The Pensions Ombudsman needs to be made within three years of when the event(s) complained about happened – or, if later, within three years of when the complainant first knew about it (or ought to have known about it). We have some discretion in certain instances for the time limit to be extended.

We will check if the complainant has already complained to the party at fault and given them a chance to put things right. If they haven’t, we may ask them to do this or see if Early Resolution can help.

If it’s clear that the application isn’t something we can deal with we’ll tell the complainant.

If we think we may be able to help, we’ll look at the application in more detail and ask for more information if necessary.

If it appears that the application might be something we can help with, we may be able to resolve the problem at this stage, providing it’s a straightforward matter. We will keep you informed during the process and check that you are happy with any steps we take.

If we think the problem can’t be resolved at this stage, we will decide if the matter can be taken on for investigation. This is called a jurisdiction decision. We may decide that we can look at the entire complaint, or just aspects of it. Or we might decide that none of the complaint can be investigated.

If we take a complaint on for investigation, we will let you know what we have decided and why.

If you don’t agree with our decision you will have an opportunity to explain why you disagree and ask us to reconsider.

One of our reviewers will make a final decision after looking at all the facts again. 

Investigate

When a complaint is allocated to an Adjudicator or Resolution Specialist they will review it and may contact you and other parties to ask for more information.

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During an investigation we will usually share all the information we receive. This means that anything you send to us is likely to be seen by others involved in the complaint and information received from them is likely to be seen by you.

If a complaint is complex, or there are a number of people involved, we may need to make several requests for information to establish the facts.

Once we have all the information we need, we will go on to the next step.

Make an initial decision or resolve the problem

Once we have enough information, we aim to close a complaint as quickly as possible. In some cases, one of our Resolution Specialists may be able to resolve the problem informally.

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If you and the complainant can agree on a resolution, we will close the complaint.

If the matter can’t be resolved, you, or the complainant, will usually be able to ask for the complaint to be considered by an Adjudicator, and ultimately by the Ombudsman. The complaint will revert to our ‘review’ stage for the application to be checked to ensure it is something we can take on for adjudication.

If the complaint is investigated by an Adjudicator, they will write to both you and the complainant and give their view on the complaint.

If the Adjudicator thinks nothing has gone wrong, they will explain why. Or, if they think something has gone wrong, they will explain their thinking and say what should be done to put things right.

Everyone involved in the complaint will have a chance to comment on the Adjudicator’s view.

If any one of the parties to the complaint does not agree with the Adjudicator's view, they can ask for the complaint to be referred to the Ombudsman with a view to a final Determination being made.

Sometimes, the Ombudsman will issue their initial view on a complaint – a preliminary decision. This will be sent to everyone involved in the complaint and you will be invited to comment before the Ombudsman makes a final Determination.

We will give everyone time to comment on an Adjudicator’s view or the Ombudsman’s preliminary decision.

When we write to you, we will tell you the deadline for responses. In some circumstances we may extend the deadline.

Determination

The Ombudsman’s Determinations are final, subject to a successful appeal to the courts on a point of law. They are binding on all the parties and enforceable in court. This includes any significantly adversely affected people for PPF cases and any interested persons we have recognised as parties to FAS cases. More information about the Ombudsman’s Determinations, and how to appeal them, is in our Determination factsheet.

 

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If the Ombudsman decides a complaint should be upheld or partly upheld they will usually tell the person at fault to put things right.

This might include:

  • Making good a financial loss or taking other steps to correct the problem. The Ombudsman can usually only consider whether there has been any harm to the individual who has come to us with the problem. There are some exceptions, for example if money has been paid out of a pension scheme in breach of trust at a loss to the whole scheme.
  • Paying compensation for any non-financial injustice, such as distress or inconvenience caused. More information about non-financial injustice and the way in which the Ombudsman addresses it is in our Determination factsheet.

There is no financial limit to the value of the award the Ombudsman can make.

Responding to a complaint

Find out how to respond to a complaint that has been made about you.

Responding to a complaint

Want to know how to appeal?

The Ombudsman’s Determinations are final. They are binding on all the parties and enforceable in court. More information about the Ombudsman’s Determinations, and how to appeal them, is in our Determination factsheet.

More information about appealing the Ombudsman’s Determination