Investigating your complaint
How to complain
Use the complaints about personal and occupational pensions form and read the guidance about what type of complaints the Ombudsman can deal with.
Usually you need to make your complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman within three years of when the event(s) you are complaining about happened – or if later, within three years of when you first knew about it (or ought reasonably to have known about it). The Pensions Ombudsman has discretion, in certain instances, for the time limit to be extended where, in the opinion of the Pensions Ombudsman:
- it was reasonable for a complaint not to be made or dispute referred within that period and
- it is received by the Pensions Ombudsman within such further period as the Ombudsman considers reasonable
You can nominate someone else to help bring a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman and they will deal with us on your behalf. If an applicant dies after having brought a complaint the complaint can generally be continued by the applicant’s personal representatives.
Once you have submitted your form, the Pensions Ombudsman will contact you either by email or phone to discuss whether it is the sort of complaint the Ombudsman can help you with.
Decision to investigate
Before the Pensions Ombudsman can look at a problem the Ombudsman needs to decide if it’s something the Ombudsman can deal with.
The Pensions Ombudsman has to be fair and impartial and will always consider information from all parties involved in a case before making a decision.
The Pensions Ombudsman has powers to gather evidence and say what the outcome should be.
The Pensions Ombudsman service is intended to provide a flexible and relatively informal way of resolving matters. Unlike a court, if your complaint is not upheld you do not have to pay the other side’s costs. Generally it should not be necessary to instruct an advocate or other paid professionals to assist you in bringing a complaint.
In individual cases, the Pensions Ombudsman is willing to consider whether to reimburse some or all of any reasonable professional fees you have incurred if a complaint is upheld. You would need to explain why it was necessary to incur these costs and why it was necessary to instruct professionals to assist you during the complaints process. The Pensions Ombudsman would not generally direct the person against whom your complaint is made, to reimburse you for any of your own time you spend in pursuing a complaint.
The investigation process
The Pensions Ombudsman aims to resolve complaints as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some complaints can be decided more quickly while others may take longer depending on how complex they are and how quickly the parties involved respond to requests for information.
If the Pensions Ombudsman concludes that they may be able to investigate and determine the complaint, there are typically three stages:
Stage 1 - Establishing the full facts of the case
Stage 2 - Making a decision
Stage 3 - After the decision is made
The Pensions Ombudsman will deal with complaints in writing or by email and is also happy to talk directly to either or both parties if requested to explain the process for dealing with the complaint and the Pensions Ombudsman’s powers. The Pensions Ombudsman has powers to hold oral hearings where the Ombudsman considers this appropriate.
Stage 1 - Establishing the facts of the case
Complete the form to:
- Give the Pensions Ombudsman information about yourself and give your contact details
- Tell us if you are appointing a representative (but you don’t have to appoint one)
- Give details of the complaint including:
- information on your pension arrangements
- when you first became aware of the matter which is the subject of the complaint
- what you think went wrong and who you think is at fault (this could be more than one person)
- what loss you have suffered as a result or distress and inconvenience you have suffered
- how you would like the Pensions Ombudsman to put the matter right
You can print off the form and send the Pensions Ombudsman the completed form with supporting documentation. The signed form can be sent to us by post.
The Pensions Ombudsman can also receive scanned documents by email if you are happy to send documents in this way.
The Pensions Ombudsman can send emails securely, using encryption. To use this software the Pensions Ombudsman will call or text you to give you a password to open documents. However, the Pensions Ombudsman will need a phone number to call you on.
If you need to send us personal health data or other sensitive personal data in connection with a complaint (for example an ill-health complaint) we would recommend that you send this to the Pensions Ombudsman by post via the Treasury. You should include any medical or other sensitive information in a second envelope addressed for the attention of and for forwarding to the IoM Pensions Ombudsman c/o the Treasury.
After the Pensions Ombudsman receives your complaint
Once the Pensions Ombudsman has received the form and supporting documents and the Pensions Ombudsman concludes that the Ombudsman has power to investigate your complaint further, the Ombudsman will ask the people you think are at fault to comment on your complaint.
If the Pensions Ombudsman concludes that the Ombudsman has no power to investigate the complaint you will be told at this stage. If the Pensions Ombudsman needs more information from you before deciding, the Ombudsman will tell you.
If the case is complex, or if there are a number of people involved, the Pensions Ombudsman may need to request more information from both parties to establish the full facts of the case. Everyone is given time to gather the facts, and, in most cases, those facts are shared with everyone involved.
While a case is being investigated the Pensions Ombudsman aims to contact the person who made the complaint at regular intervals to keep them informed.
The Pensions Ombudsman may try to resolve the complaint informally. If all parties can agree an outcome the case will be closed.
All parties have rights and responsibilities during the investigation. It is important that all parties:
- are open and transparent and provide the information requested during the investigation
- keep all information related to the case confidential and only use it for the purposes of the complaint
- treat the other parties to the complaint with respect and courtesy
During an investigation the Pensions Ombudsman will generally share all the information the Ombudsman receives with all parties and give them an opportunity to comment.
The Pensions Ombudsman will not withhold information from other parties or communicate on a strictly confidential basis. You should work on the assumption that any information you provide on the case will be shared with the other side. If documents are provided by the other party to the complaint and you are sent copies of the documents you need to keep these documents confidential.
Stage 2 - Making a Decision
As soon as the Pensions Ombudsman has enough information the Ombudsman will aim to close the case as quickly as possible. If the Pensions Ombudsman considers that nothing has gone wrong they will explain why. Or if the Pensions Ombudsman thinks something has gone wrong the Ombudsman will explain the reasons for reaching that conclusion and say what should be done to put things right.
Usually the Pensions Ombudsman will issue an initial view on a complaint in a preliminary decision. This will be sent to everyone involved in the complaint and they will be invited to comment. The Pensions Ombudsman will then tell you how long you have to comment on the preliminary decision. In some circumstances the Pensions Ombudsman will extend the timeframe where the Ombudsman considers it fair to do so.
Once the Pensions Ombudsman has considered the comments of all parties on the preliminary determination the final determination will be issued. In some circumstances, however, if new issues or new points are raised in response to the preliminary determination the Ombudsman may conclude that to ensure fair process both parties should have an opportunity to comment on the other side’s comments before issuing the final determination.
Stage 3 - After a decision is made
The Pensions Ombudsman is unable to enter into further discussion about the complaint once the final determination is made. The determination will set out the Ombudsman’s reasons for reaching the decision on the complaint. The only way you, or the person about whom the complaint has been made, may be able to challenge the determination, is to appeal to the court.
If the Pensions Ombudsman decides a complaint should be upheld or partly upheld the Ombudsman will usually include directions in the determination about how to put things right.
The Pensions Ombudsman may direct the party against whom the complaint is made to pay a sum of money (with or without interest) or to take certain action (which might include issuing an apology) within a specified period. The person in respect of whom the direction is made has to comply unless they successfully appeal the determination in court.
A Pensions Ombudsman’s determination and directions can be enforced in the High Court in the Isle of Man (unless there is a successful appeal on a point of law) and is binding on all the parties to the complaint (unless there is a successful appeal on a point of law).
To enforce a determination you need to apply to the High Court and provide the Court with a copy of the determination. The Pensions Ombudsman has no power to enforce the determination on your behalf.
The Pensions Ombudsman has power to publish final determinations or summaries of determinations. If the determination is published generally the applicant who has made the complaint will be referred to by initials.
You can ask the Pensions Ombudsman not to:
- publish the determination or
- not to include certain personal financial or other information in the determination if you have particular reasons for not wanting it included in a published determination
The Pensions Ombudsman will consider your request, however, the general policy is to publish the determination as it is helpful if the reasons for decisions are publicly available. The Pensions Ombudsman also considers that publication is consistent with the principles of open justice.
Appeals against decisions
If you are unhappy with a decision it may be possible for you to appeal the decision to the Isle of Man High Court.
If an appeal is pending the person against whom the complaint is made may apply to the court for an Ombudsman’s determination to be stayed. This means that it is put on hold until the outcome of the appeal is known and in the meantime the person against whom the complaint is made does not have to comply with the Ombudsman’s directions.
If you are unhappy with the Ombudsman’s decision you need to decide whether or not to appear in person or be represented at the appeal. If you do and the court decides that the Ombudsman’s decision should be upheld, you may have to pay some or all of the costs of the appeal.
The Pensions Ombudsman does not advise either party whether or not to lodge an appeal or the legal steps they should take. If you intend to appeal you may wish to take advice from an Isle of Man advocate but bear in mind that this will result in you incurring legal costs.
Generally the Pensions Ombudsman will not be represented at an appeal.
The Ombudsman’s powers to make financial awards for distress and inconvenience and financial loss
The Pensions Ombudsman has power when making a determination to direct any person responsible for the management of the occupational or personal pensions scheme which is the subject of the complaint or dispute, to take, or refrain from taking, such steps as they may specify.
This power to make directions is very wide and includes the power to make:
- a reasonable financial award for non-financial injustice sustained as a consequence of maladministration (known as non-financial injustice awards or awards for distress and inconvenience) and
- monetary awards for any financial injustice suffered as a consequence of maladministration involving an infringement of a legal right (calculated under normal legal principles) and financial awards for any legal loss sustained as a consequence of breach of law (calculated under normal legal principles)
Non-financial injustice awards may include awards for:
- ‘Inconvenience’ or time and trouble sustained by the applicant. This is time and effort spent by the applicant in relation to maladministration and having to pursue their complaint. This includes needing to go through a complaints process where the maladministration was both avoidable and identifiable at an earlier stage
- ’Distress’ suffered by the applicant. It could, for example, be concern, anxiety, anger, disappointment, embarrassment or loss of expectation. Distress can vary from mild irritation to (exceptionally) anxiety that requires medical treatment
To make an award for non-financial injustice it must be sustained as a consequence of maladministration.
Non-financial injustice is distinct from financial injustice/loss. This is financial loss arising directly or indirectly from the maladministration or breach of law (for example the loss of investment return on your pension fund).
There is no guidance by the Isle of Man courts yet about what is a reasonable financial award for non-financial injustice. However, there are a number of UK Court decisions in relation to the UK Pensions Ombudsman (the UK Pensions Ombudsman is governed by virtually identical legislation) which the Isle of Man courts are likely to have regard to if this matter ever had to be decided.
The Isle of Man Pensions Ombudsman will generally take a similar approach to the UK Pensions Ombudsman on the level of award, but is not bound to do so. The Pensions Ombudsman will typically award for non-financial injustice as follows:
|no award||£500||£1000||£2000||More than £2000|
The level of award will depend on the Ombudsman’s assessment of the level of distress and inconvenience, the number of instances of maladministration and whether there are any aggravating factors.
Isle of Man Pensions Ombudsman c/o the Treasury
Isle of Man