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23 Jan 2010: Pensions Ombudsman releases 2009 statistics


Pensions Ombudsman reports on 2009 caseload
  • Complaints to Pensions Ombudsman rise 71% in 2009
  •        398 cases under investigation at year-end
  •      711 investigations closed in 2009 -- up 11%
  •          website hits up 78% to 630,000
Mr Paul Kenny, the Pensions Ombudsman, today issued provisional figures on the caseload in his Office in 2009. These figures, which will be further analysed in his formal Annual Report to the Minister for Social and Family Affairs later in the year, show a very significant increase in complaints by the public to his Office last year.
1760 new complaints were received in 2009, a 71% increase on the figure for 2008. The 2008 figure was in itself an increase of some 40% over the figure in 2007. 
Commenting on the figures, Mr Kenny said that his Office started 2009 with 473 investigations on hand, a formidable workload and one which was 34% higher than at the start of the previous year. This reflected the huge increase in complaints received in 2008. Facing the likelihood of an even greater number of complaints in 2009, Mr Kenny said that it was imperative to drive efficiency in the complaint handling system or face the prospect of being totally swamped. Accordingly, his Office put much more emphasis on giving early advice to both sides in a dispute and mediating settlements, rather than letting the dispute develop to a stage where formal investigation and determination is required. This approach is now reflected in the 2009 figures which show that almost 2/3 of investigations which were completed during the year followed advice and mediation. In terms of categories of investigations, the largest number was in relation to Calculation of Benefits (113) and the biggest increase related to investigations about Fund Values which more than doubled from 34 to 84 in 2009.
" I am very pleased that this approach has proven so successful. So much so, that despite the significant increase in the number of complaints, we closed 2009 with 16% less investigations on hand than at the beginning of the year. This was indeed a very pleasing outcome from the hard work throughout the year", Mr Kenny said.
Looking to 2010, Mr Kenny felt that the enormous increase in complaints in 2008 and 2009 might begin to level off. "The massive shocks to the pensions industry and the widespread publicity which resulted meant that people were much more aware of the need to monitor their pension arrangements very carefully. The old practice of leaving the pension to look after itself is now well and truly buried and I am very pleased that the level of interest and understanding in the area has grown enormously. Vigilance is key", he said.
Under the Pensions Act 1990, as amended, the Pensions Ombudsman investigates and decides on complaints and disputes that an individual has suffered a financial loss because of some failure in the administration of the occupational pension scheme, Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA), or Trust RAC. He is completely independent and impartial and has a small staff of nine people.
For further information contact Mr. Paul Kenny, Pensions Ombudsman at (01) 647 1650 or see
23 January, 2010