Sipp, Pension and Investment Complaints Soar

Complaints by retirement savers and investors against a series of pension and portfolio products have soared over the past three months.

Customers are dissatisfied about the performance of their investments, but by no means win many of the objections put before the Financial Ombudsman.

The latest figures show an increasing number of complaints about personal pensions, portfolio management; self-invested personal pensions (SiPPs), and annuities.

However, complaints about payment protection insurance still dominate the ombudsman’s workload – accounting for around two-thirds of all cases.

In fact, in the first half of 2012, the Financial Ombudsman picked up 135,170 new complaints – a 27% increase on the previous period. Just over 90% of the cases related to 169 financial businesses out of more than 100,000 businesses registered with the service.

500 SiPP complaints

Personal pension complaints rose 53% compared with the first three months of the year, up from 405 to 630.

Portfolio management complaints increased 53% to 460 complaints from 300 in the second quarter, but only 49% were resolved in the favour of consumers, down from 59% in the first quarter.

Complaints were also up about unit-linked investment bonds, with-profits bonds, SiPPs, annuities, and pension transfers.

SiPP complaints jumped from 128 to 179, with those for annuities increasing to 178 from 113 the previous quarter. SiPP complaints for the year so far total 500.

Chief Ombudsman Natalie Ceeney notes that financial firms are releasing more data about allegedly fraudulent claims.

Record level of complaints

“It’s not news that we’re receiving record levels of complaints. And the media is never short of stories about the widespread lack of trust in financial services – and real-life examples of where financial institutions have got things badly wrong,” she said.

“But recently, I’ve noticed a shift in the way this is reported and commented on. Alongside concerns about the banks’ sales approach and incentives, I’ve noticed more talk of “fraudulent claims” – with some reports that people are claiming for policies they never actually had. All this fuels the argument that society’s in the grip of “compensation culture” – and that this culture is growing in financial services.

“I can’t speak for other areas – and I’d imagine that people involved in delivering other services to the public may have a different perspective. But I’m not seeing anything that suggests that consumers are more likely to make a speculative claim now than in the past.”