Step by Step, the Way to a New Deal; Our Campaign Spotlights Ho W Industry Must Cle an Up Its Act
Byline: CLARE HALL
FINANCIAL Mail has drawn up a a five-point action plan for the pensions industry as part of a powerful Fair Play on Pensions campaign.
The plan is based on the hundreds of letters that have poured in since our campaign was launched six months ago. Many readers had heartbreaking stories to tell.
Over the past 12 months the industry has undergone a massive shake-up.
And this year the introduction of low-cost stakeholder pensions and a one-stop central ombudsman to deal with complaints will also help the consumer cause.
The new ombudsman will insist on companies replying to customers' complaints within four weeks, a big improvement on their present performance.
But Financial Mail's bulging postbag shows there is still a long way to go.
As the 21st Century begins, we ask pension companies to turn over a new leaf by dealing swiftly and fairly with customers' problems and by taking action to avoid the same problems happening over and over again.
Here are the five key New Year resolutions Financial Mail wants the pensions industry to adopt: * SET up tighter controls over pensions administration to reduce the disturbing number of errors made each year - errors often exposed first in Financial Mail.
* ACT more quickly on customers' complaints and give each complaint or problem equal consideration.
* WORK harder to simplify products and product literature, so customers really understand what they are buying.
* MAKE sure that pensions reflect reality and are flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
* EXTEND the personal pension mis-selling review to cover every pension sold. At the moment only those sold between April 1988 and June 1994 have to be checked by pensions firms.
Two MPs have joined Financial Mail's battle for fair play on pensions.
Liberal Democrat social security spokesman Steve Webb believes our campaign will shame companies into treating customers more fairly.
He says: 'I hope this campaign will put pressure on pension companies to provide the highest levels of service and value to customers.
'Without this, people will continue to lack confidence in the private sector and as a result end up with inadequate incomes in retirement.'
Howard Flight, Tory MP for Arundel and South Downs, also hopes our campaign will help to prevent consumers buying products they do not understand.
'Let us hope that 2000 really is the year of simplification,' he says.
'Companies must sell less complicated products and be as helpful as possible to customers to make sure that they all understand exactly what they are buying.' Here are just two of the typical pension problems encountered by unlucky Financial Mail readers: Hilary and Rodolfo Rosina wish mortgage lender Standard Life had stepped in to help them understand what they were buying when they converted a repayment loan into a pension-linked one in 1987.
At the time, a financial adviser told the couple, from Christchurch, Dorset, that the new mortgage would pay off their [pounds sterling]18,000 home loan and provide them with an income in retirement. …