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One in four workers in the UK have changed their pension plans due to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to new research released for Pensions Awareness Day this week.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a fine to CPS Advisory Ltd for making more than 100,000 unauthorised direct marketing calls to people about their pensions.


CPS Advisory, the parent company of Swansea-based The Advisory Network, was fined £130,000 for the breach of new laws on pensions cold calling.

Under the new cold calling laws, companies can only make calls to people about their pensions if they are authorised by the FCA and the recipient has an existing relationship with the caller.

The change to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR) which covers marketing calls, phone and texts in January 2019, was introduced to prevent people falling victim to scams, most of which are carried out through nuisance calls, and potentially losing their pensions.

Under PECR, businesses can face a fine of up to £500,000 from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

During its investigation, the ICO found that between 11 January 2019 and 30 April 2019, the company had made 106,987 calls to people without lawful authority.

The ICO found that the company was not a trustee or manager of a pensions scheme, was not authorised by the FCA and the evidence that it provided did not satisfy the ICO that valid consent had been obtained.

The Information Commissioner decided that this represented “a significant intrusion into the privacy of the recipients of such calls.”

Andy Curry, ICO head of investigations, said: “Unwanted pension calls can cause real distress and even significant financial hardship to often vulnerable people, who can end up losing their hard-earned pension pot to scammers.

“This company clearly flouted the law when they should have known better. Businesses making direct marketing calls are responsible for understanding their responsibilities under the legislation, ignorance is no excuse.”

A spokesman for The Pensions Regulator said: “This £130,000 fine should be a strong deterrent to any firm thinking of flouting the law on pension cold calls."

 

Industry experts have expressed concern about the Government’s confirmation it will legislate to increase the age the Pension Freedoms can be accessed from 55 to 57 from 2028.

The annual Pension Awareness Week roadshows have gone virtual, with the launch of a five-day online event to help people with pensions, money and financial wellbeing.

The Chancellor could introduce a limit to the tax-free lump sums taken from pensions, cut the pension annual allowance, and tax pensions when left to descendants to raise cash in the Autumn Budget.

HMRC has reported that £2.3bn was withdrawn from pensions flexibly in Q2 - a 17% fall year-on-year from the £2.8 billion seen in Q2 2019.

A nudge from a pension provider drove three times as many savers to seek guidance during research by the Money and Pensions Service.

Single male pensioners receive up to 26% more income than single female pensioners, according to a report using data complied from the Office for National Statistics.

MPs have urged the Pensions Regulator to help employees who do opt-out due to financial difficulties during the pandemic to re-enrol than would happen normally under auto-enrolment.

Almost 9 in 10 of eligible employees (88%, 19.2m people) have saved for retirement through their workplace pension: an increase from 55% in 2012 when automatic-enrolment began, DWP figures have said.

However, pension participation among self-employed people continued to fall from 21% in 2009/10 to 14% in 2018/19.

The annual total amount saved for eligible employees was £98.4bn in 2019, an increase of £5.3bn from 2018.

£40.5bn was saved into public sector schemes (41%), with £57.9bn (59%) saved into private sector schemes.DWP data from December 2019 showed 5.44m people were employed in the public sector (16%) compared to 27.55m (84%) people in the private sector.

Following the release of the data, Hargreaves Lansdown shared concerns about the pension savings figures for the self-employed.

Nathan Long, interim head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown said: “The self-employed continue to be precariously placed with just a handful choosing to save into a pension, showing the existing incentives just don’t resonate. The Government will also be acutely aware that 41% of all pension contributions go to public sector employees that represent less than a fifth of all workers.”

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