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Parliamentary Question re: Complaints Handled by the Pensions Ombudsman

WRITTEN question for answer on 20/01/2015 :
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a yearly breakdown from 2004 to 2014 of the number of complaints handled by the Pensions Ombudsman; the number of complaints successfully upheld in each year; the three most common types of complaints each year; the average timeframe for investigating complaints; the reason complaints lodged in 2013 are expected to take five years to investigate; and if she will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor.
Question No:  182                     Ref No:  2694/15
To the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection if she will provide a yearly breakdown from 2004 to 2014 of the number of complaints handled by the Pensions Ombudsman; the number of complaints successfully upheld in each year; the three most common types of complaints each year; the average timeframe for investigating complaints; the reason complaints lodged in 2013 are expected to take five years to investigate; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
– Anthony Lawlor.
*    For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 20th January, 2015.

R E P L Y
Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection (Joan Burton T.D.):
The Pensions Ombudsman has power to make determinations which are legally binding on parties to a complaint or dispute, subject to appeal to the High Court.  However, a relatively small percentage of disputes are resolved in this way as the bulk are normally dealt with through mediation between the parties and the giving of general information and/or advice in the form of a report.  The table below shows the number of cases for which detailed investigation files were opened each year since 2004 and the number resolved by each of these three methods.
The total gross number of complaints received is considerably higher than this table shows.  Since 2010 (the first year from when full detailed figures are available) there has been a yearly average of 1,652 complaints received and 1,593 closed.  Some complaints received (typically 18%) are outside the terms of reference of the Office or cannot be investigated for legal reasons.  Following examination, these are either rejected or referred to other tribunals, as appropriate.  Other reasons for closure include withdrawal of the complaint by the complainant, perhaps following a referral for internal dispute resolution.
The time taken to close a case can vary from a single day to several years.  The factors influencing the time taken include the nature and complexity of the case itself; the number of parties involved (e.g., employer, trustees, administrators, financial services providers, Government Departments and agencies); the completeness and accuracy of the information given to the Office; the completeness and speed of response by those named in the complaint or dispute; the dependence or otherwise on other external processes; and the willingness or otherwise of parties to cooperate fully with the investigation.  Completion times can range from a matter of days to a number of years, depending on those factors.  Typically, mediated cases are closed in half the time taken by those which go to a formal determination, as the latter entail detailed and time-consuming reports.  In 2013, 38% of cases were closed in less than five weeks, but 32% had taken more than a year.  The office of the Pensions Ombudsman has no record of ever stating that a case submitted in 2013 would not be completed for five years.  However, it is conceivable that the resolution of a dispute could depend on and must await the outcome of some other process such as a liquidation or receivership, outside the control of the Pensions Ombudsman.
Year Cases on hand start of year New cases Closed in year Determinations upheld Determinations Not upheld Mediations Favourable# Mediations Unfavourable Report/
Advice
info given
2004 112 297 122 7 16 22 11 4
2005 287 397 385 24 52 95 51 19
2006 291 439 307 32 29 88 29 62
2007 423 515 584 30 34 159 38 150
2008 354 727+31* 639 37 15 128 43 146
2009 473 616+20* 711 32 15 160 47 246
2010 398 558+31* 555 27 47 103 43 203
2011 432 485+49* 557 37 25 87 26 238
2012 409 601+36* 677 37 21 79 15 357
2013 369 463+45* 655 37 33 74 8 330
2014 222 Detail breakdown not yet available

*cases reopened following resubmission or completion of Internal Disputes Resolution;
# Favourable means resulting in some advantage to complainant

Nature of complaints:  3 most common complaints, by year
2004: Post-retirement increases; membership/entry conditions; failure of scheme to respond.
2005: Non-remittance of contributions (mainly Construction Industry); Membership/entry conditions; post-retirement increases.
2006:  Membership/entry conditions; Miscalculation of benefits; non-remittance of contributions.
2007: Miscalculation of benefits; membership/entry conditions; transfers.
2008: Miscalculation of benefits; non-remittance of contributions; failure to disclose information.
2009: Miscalculation of benefits; Loss of fund value; non-remittance of contributions.
2010: Non-remittance of contributions; Miscalculation of benefits; Loss of fund value.
2011: Miscalculation of benefits; non-remittance of contributions; Loss of fund value.
2012: Miscalculation of benefits; Transfers; non-remittance of contributions.
2013: Miscalculation of benefits; Loss of fund value; Cost of/ credit for added years.
2014: Detailed breakdown not yet available.

ENDS