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Pension freedoms inquiry launched

20 September 2017

The Work & Pensions Committee launches a new inquiry into whether and how far the pension freedom and choice reforms are achieving their objectives and whether policy changes are required. This work will follow up an inquiry by the Committee shortly after the reforms were introduced in 2015.

For many people the choice of what to do with their pension savings in preparation for retirement will be the biggest financial decision they ever make. This inquiry has a wide scope, taking in the current picture of what people are doing with their retirement savings and how they chose their paths, the information and guidance available, and the way the pension product market is working.

Concerns about scams

One of the major concerns about the new freedoms is the potential for fraudsters to target people thinking about accessing or moving their pension pots. Police data show that
over £43 million of people's retirement savings have been lost to fraud since the policy was announced.

Recently the Pension Regulator warned that their anti-scammer “kitemark” is being used fraudulently by scammers and the Department for Work and Pensions has brought forward proposals for further anti-scam measures. The Committee is keen to hear of people's experiences with scammers, and what might be done to prevent these potentially devastating losses.

Saving decisions and guidance

Research indicates that people are making their pension choices without the support available, increasing the risk that they will not get the best value from their savings. Of people aged 55 and over and planning to retire in the next two years, just 7% used the free and impartial Pension Wise guidance service.

Market research for the Financial Conduct Authority found that early access of pension pots has become the ‘new norm' and that most who do so take a ‘path of least resistance', with low levels of shopping around.

Nest, the state-backed workplace pension scheme, recently expressed concerns that its millions of members may be at risk of running out of money, be hit by high charges or pay additional tax as a result of inadequate support structures being in place.

Call for evidence

The Committee invites written evidence on any or all of the following by Monday 23 October 2017, including recommendations for improvements in each case:

  • What are people doing with their pension pots (including defined benefit pension entitlements) and are those decisions consistent with their objectives? Is there adequate monitoring of the decisions being made?
  • Are people taking proportionate advice and guidance and if not, why not? Are people adjusting behaviour in response to advice and guidance?
  • To what extent will pensions dashboards enable consumers to make more informed decisions about their retirement savings? What are the remaining obstacles to their creation and success and how should those obstacles be overcome?
  • Is Pension Wise working? If not, how should it be reformed? Are there any implications for the proposed creation of a new single public financial guidance body?
  • Are there persistent gaps in the advice and guidance market and what might fill them? Is automated advice and guidance filling gaps as expected?
  • Is there evidence of product market competition resulting in cheaper, clearer or a wider products for consumers? Are people switching from their pension provider in accessing their pots? Is an adequate annuity market being sustained?
  • Are the Government and Financial Conduct Authority taking adequate steps to prevent scamming and mis-selling?
  • Are the freedom and choice reforms part of a coherent retirement saving strategy? To what extent is it complimentary to or undermined by other policies? 

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"Pension freedom and choice liberated savers to choose what they wanted to do with their own money. This was welcome, but as with any radical reform it important to monitor its practical effects closely to ensure it is working as envisaged. In this case it is vital that adequate support ensures people are equipped to ensure they don't make decisions they subsequently regret.

I am particularly concerned that savers are more vulnerable than ever to unscrupulous scam artists. This policy must not become the freedom to liberate people of their savings."

Further information

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