Pension regulator ramps up resources to become ‘tougher’

The UK’s Pensions Regulator (TPR) has announced that it is increasing resources, with particular focus on final salary pension vulnerability when companies fail, and on combating increasingly aggressive pension fraudsters. 

In its recently published corporate plan, the regulator announced it plans to spend £4.3 million more in 2018/19 than in 2017/18 (an increase of 5.2 per cent). 

‘This will help TPR to crack down on sponsoring employers who are not taking their duties towards their pension schemes seriously, as well as launch a new anti-scams campaign to help prevent savers from being ripped off,’ said TPR in its plan.

One of the key priorities over the next years is the anti-scams campaign. TPR chief executive Lesley Titcomb says: ‘Our corporate plan sets out how we are becoming a clearer, quicker and tougher regulator.’ 

TPR chairman Mark Boyle adds: ‘In the coming year, you can expect to see us being more vocal about our expectations of those we regulate, and intervening quickly and decisively.’

But TPR’s budget remains tiny considering the vast landscape it is required to monitor, points out Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell. ‘This undoubtedly limits its ability to ensure all savers in the schemes it regulates are protected all of the time.’ 

Selby says: ‘In this context, chairman Mark Boyle’s pledge to be “more vocal” in communicating its expectations of those it regulates makes sense. The regulator has to compensate for its lack of resources somehow, and by roaring like a lion it will hope to convince those it polices it is more than just a kitten.’

However, he regards the new anti-scams campaign as a positive step in the fight against fraudsters. ‘We must use all the tools at our disposal to warn consumers of this threat, and public awareness campaigns have the potential to be hugely effective in protecting savers.’ 

Kate Smith, head of pensions at Aegon, says that the ban on cold calling will help to stem the tide of fraudsters, but it may not be enough to ward them off. ‘Growing at an exponential rate, pension scams have been a menace for years. The pensions cold-calling ban will do more to protect savers, but for some unfortunately it’s been far too late in the day. 

‘The sad fact is that the ban is unlikely to give anywhere near 100 per cent protection from scammers who will simply ignore the law, while it gives no protection for scammers based overseas. Once the ban is in place it must be enforced by the government and its agencies. A ban alone is unlikely to be effective. People need to be made aware that cold-calling them about their pensions will be illegal.’ 

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