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The Office of the Pensions Ombudsman

1. Can I make a complaint?
Firstly, check that the Pensions Ombudsman has the legal power to take your complaint. The easiest way to do this is to look at the COMPLAINTS section of our website where detailed information is given. As a general rule, complaints must relate to Occupational Pension Schemes, PRSAs or Trust RACs.

2. Is there anything I should do before I make my complaint?
Yes, check our website for instructions on Internal Disputes Resolution. 

3. How do I make a complaint?
The complaint must be on the official Complaint Form which can be downloaded from the website.

4. You can only deal with complaints about occupational pensions PRSAs (Personal Retirement Savings Accounts) and Trust RACs. I'm not sure what kind of pension I have.
There are many types of pensions. Occupational Pension Schemes are schemes linked directly with and arranged by your employer. A PRSA is a pension that you can take from employment to employment, it is set up in your name and its assets are held exclusively for you. It is for people who do not have access to a pension plan, and is your own property, even if it was set up through your employer. We can consider complaints in these 3 areas. If your pension arrangements have been made privately, say as a self employed person or as a director of a company, you may have a personal pension (called a Retirement Annuity Contract). Unless it is one of a small number of group schemes set up for members of certain professions, a personal pension is outside the Pensions Ombudsman's terms of reference and complaints can be investigated by the Financial Services Ombudsman at 3rd Floor, Lincoln House, Lincoln Place, Dublin 2. Tel 1890 88 2090. For State (Social Welfare) Pension issues, see Question No. 14. If your complaint is specifically about how a pension scheme is being run or administered, rather than you having suffered actual financial loss, your complaint is for the Pensions Authority, the Regulator for the industry.  The Pensions Authority may be contacted at, Verschoyle House, 28/30 Lower Mount Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 613 1900, 1890 65-65-65, alternatively view their website at www.pensionsauthority.ie

5. What happens to my complaint when it reaches your Office?
Firstly, the Pensions Ombudsman will decide whether he has power to investigate. If the complaint can be investigated, you will be notified and you may be asked for further information. Other parties to the complaint, named in your complaint form, will then be sent copies of any papers that you sent to the Pensions Ombudsman, to allow them respond to your complaint. The amount of time needed to investigate your complaint or dispute will depend on how complicated the matter is. Initially we may try to mediate between the parties to see if an acceptable solution can be found. However, if this does not work, we go to formal investigation resulting in a Final Determination. Near the end of a complicated investigation, the Pensions Ombudsman may give a "Preliminary View" to all parties. This will summarise the facts uncovered during the investigation and also indicate a possible final outcome. At that stage all parties will have a last chance to provide any further information or evidence that they feel is important to the case. The Pensions Ombudsman will then issue his Final Determination on the complaint which is legally binding on all parties. See complaint Flow Chart.

6. If I am not happy with the decision of the Pensions Ombudsman, what can I do?
A formal decision by the Pensions Ombudsman, called a Final Determination, is binding on all parties but may be appealed to the High Court by any party to the decision within 21 days.

7. How much does this service cost?
The Pensions Ombudsman does not make any charge for his service.

8. My parent / partner / child etc., was a member of a pension scheme, but is now deceased. Can I still make a complaint about their pension scheme?
Yes - on the official Complaint Form.

9. My parent/partner/child etc. wishes to bring a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman, can they use a representative instead of doing it themselves?
Yes. However, they must authorise the representative on the Official Complaint Form which they must complete and sign, unless they are under 18 years old or are otherwise unable to sign. A complaint on behalf of a person under 18 should always be made by a representative.

10. Will the Pensions Ombudsman award costs for using a professional person in representing a complainant?
No. He is not allowed to award anything over and above the actual scheme benefit that you may have lost as a result of maladministration.

11. How far back can the Pensions Ombudsman go in relation to a complaint?
Two separate time-limits apply for bringing a complaint, depending on when the event happened which gives rise to the complaint. If it happened before the 28th April 2003 (the day the Pensions Ombudsman was appointed) it can be investigated as long as the date of the occurrence was not earlier than 13th April 1996. If it happened on or after 28th April 2003, the matter must be referred to this Office before the later of:

  • 6 years from the date of the act or event giving rise to the complaint or dispute or
  • 3 years from the date on which you were aware – or ought to have been aware – of the problem.

However, in these cases the Ombudsman may allow a longer period for accepting a complaint if it appears to him that there are reasonable grounds for extending the period.

12. What is the difference between the Pensions Ombudsman and the Pensions Board?
The Pensions Ombudsman is completely independent and has a statutory responsibility to deal with individual complaints made by members of the public on certain pension matters involving both maladministration and financial loss. His Office is funded by the taxpayer. The Pensions Board, on the other hand, has a statutory responsibility to monitor and supervise the pensions industry generally and is funded by a levy on pension schemes.