Ombudsman Declines British Steel Complaints

Published / Last Updated on 17/01/2020

The Pensions Ombudsman had accepted around 230 complaints against the trustees of the British Steel Pension Scheme.

History of British Steel Debacle

December 2017 British Steel scheme members, as part of its rescue package were asked to transfer their defined benefit pension to a British Steel Pension Scheme Number 2  or remain in the existing fund to be passed on in liquidation to the Pension Protection Fund resulting in many members receiving a lower pension from the compensation fund.

As part of a restructure, and before the December announcement, the rules on how Cash Equivalent Transfer Values and Early Retirement Factors where changed resulting in members that requested a transfer value or retired early from the BSPS after April received significantly higher benefits or transfer values than those who had already transferred out or taken early retirement.

It is alleged, and we have to agree, in that we dealt with one BSPS member, that members and their advisers did not receive enough information about their pensions to be able to make an informed decision.  We had to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to get all the missing information needed to advice our client accordingly.

This has resulted in:

  1. Over 8,000 British Steel members transferred away entirely, giving up guaranteed pensions rights and a huge pension transfer mis-selling scandal is affecting the industry via the FCA, the Financial Ombudsman (not to be confused with the Pensions Ombudsman) and even the government considering criminal prosecution of rogue advisers.
  2. This Pensions Ombudsman complaint where 230 complaints have been made against the trustees and not receiving enough information.

The Pensions Ombudsman has broken the 230 cases down into four lead test cases and decided not to uphold these complaints.

The circumstances of each of the four lead cases differed slightly in relation to the change of calculation basis the member took their transfer values or retired early.  The Ombudsman has decided not to uphold these complaints.  It ruled that the scheme trustees did secure and take appropriate advice to reach decisions on the future of the scheme and enhancement to  early retirement factors and increased transfer value calculations and these enhancements should not be applied retrospectively.


The whole BSPS debacle is simply a mess.  Advisers getting sued for alleged poor advice and trustees getting sued for not giving enough information.  Sajid Javid, now Chancellor, but Business Secretary in 2015/16 and the ‘broker’ of the British Steel takeover in 2016 should take a long, hard look at his brokered deal with Tata.  Smoke and mirrors? Who knows?  Advisers get the blame when in fact it should be Regulators and Government to blame for not doing their jobs properly in the first place.

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