Ombudsman services ‘expecting to be inundated with complaints due to Covid-19’

Ombudsman services are bracing themselves to be inundated with complaints as a result of Covid-19, MPs have heard.

Anthony Arter, who is the Pensions Ombudsman and Pension Protection Fund Ombudsman, said the financial strain people are currently under could lead to approaches from fraudsters offering to “help” them release their pension cash.

Some employers may also be tempted not to pay pension contributions into schemes, he warned.

Mr Arter, who is chairman of the Ombudsman Association, told the Work and Pensions Committee: “I had a meeting about a month ago with other public sector ombudsmen.

“And everyone is agreed that public sector ombudsmen will be inundated with complaints as a result of Covid.

“I don’t think pensions will be any exception to that. If you look at the financial strain that people are going to be suffering, going forward, and they’ve got a pot of money there in their pension scheme, the big concern is the fraudsters coming in to say: ‘We can help you get that money’.

“You’ve got perhaps people under 55 and those fraudsters will be saying: ‘We can help you release that money,’ and of course they can’t.

“I can see that happening, I can see an increase. Not straight away, with these things it’s always delayed action.

“We probably won’t see those complaints coming through maybe for 12 months, maybe my successor will have that. Maybe less, I don’t know.

“There’s no increase right at this moment, but I think that will happen.”

He continued: “I also think there will be those employers who will take the money, the contributions… and not pay them across into pension schemes.

“I’m convinced that will happen, almost certainly.”

Mr Arter added: “Undoubtedly there will be an increase in the number of complaints.”

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