Outer Temple Chambers

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On your marks. Three members of OTC Pensions Team involved in the first case of its type regarding abuse and the jurisdiction of the Pensions Ombudsman

Most members of occupational pension schemes involved in a pensions dispute prefer to have their dispute determined by the Pensions Ombudsman (PO) rather than the court. The reason for such a choice is a simple one: issuing court proceedings exposes a member to the risk of having to pay the costs of the trustees and/or employer; complaining to the PO does not. However, the applicable statutory regime prevents the PO from investigating when court proceedings have already been commenced. In general terms, the reverse is also true, i.e. the court will not entertain proceedings if a dispute has already been referred to the PO. When the member’s preference for the PO is not shared by the employer, there is a clear incentive in being the first out of the block.

However, would it be an abuse, justifying a strike-out, for an employer to commence proceedings in order to prevent a member from complaining to the PO when the member had engaged the internal dispute resolution process (IDRP), which is, save for exceptional circumstances, a pre-requisite before the PO will investigate and determine a complaint? This was the question facing the court in the above matter where David E Grant acted for the member seeking to strike out the claim of an employer (represented by James Rickards) and, in the alternative, seek costs from the employer or the trustees (represented by Andrew Short QC)…

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