Savers will be pleased to hear the government has announced a crackdown on private pension cold calling.
Firms will be banned from making cold calls and sending cold emails or texts that are related to pensions. They can however, still contact consumers where someone has expressly requested to be contacted by a firm, and where a relationship between a company and customer already exists.
HMRC regulation to prevent scammers from opening fraudulent pension schemes will also be tightened to ensure only active companies that produce regular up-to-date accounts will be able to register pension schemes.
Tougher action to prevent the transfer of savings from occupational pension schemes into fraudulent schemes has also been promised. Pension trustees will have to ensure the scheme to which a pot is being transferred to is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has an active employment link with the individual making the transfer, or is an authorised ‘master trust’ (a workplace pension scheme that is used by two or more employers).
The government hopes these changes will make it clear that no unsolicited contact about pensions is legitimate. The ban will be enforced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
However, a date has yet to be set for the implementation of the ban, with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) only saying it will depend on what parliamentary scheduling allows.
‘It is concerning there remains no set date for implementation’
Tom Selby senior analyst at AJ Bell comments: “The measures announced by the Government should put a severe dent in the business models used by these fraudsters, giving savers more confidence their valuable pensions will be safe from criminals.
“The fact emails and text messages will also be covered by the ban means savers can be absolutely certain that if someone they don’t know contacts them out of the blue about their pension, they simply should not engage with them. That means don’t email, don’t text back and hang up the phone.
“However it is concerning there remains no set date for implementation and we urge policymakers to fast-track these vital protections through Parliament as a matter of urgency.”
Commenting on the publication of the Treasury response to the consultation on cold-calling and pension scams, Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London and former minister for pensions says: “The fact that the government is planning to take action on cold-calling and on pension scams is very welcome, but the proposed timetable is worrying.
"With regard to cold calling, the consultation says only that the government will be working on the details for the rest of this year and will then legislate 'when Parliamentary time allows'. With people being scammed every day, this is much too slow. Even if a measure is included in an Act of Parliament some time in 2018, there will then need to be more detailed 'secondary' legislation drafted and debated.
"Unless the government makes this a priority we could still see cold calling well into 2019 or 2020.”
£43 million stolen since 2014
The ban comes as figures released by the government show scammers stole £5 million from pension funds in the first five months of 2017. An estimated £43 million has been stolen since April 2014 with victims losing £15,000 on average.
Scammers often encourage savers to transfer their money in exchange for the promise of low-risk high-reward investment schemes.
Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion, says: “Today’s figures highlight the extent to which people’s savings are being targeted and stolen through elaborate hoaxes - leaving them with little opportunity to build up their savings again. That is why we are introducing tough new measures for those who scam.
“If people have saved for a pension, we want to protect them. This is the biggest lifesaving that individuals normally make over many years of hard work. By tackling these scammers, people should know that cold calling, apart from exceptional circumstances, is banned.”
The government urges anyone with a concern over the legitimacy of their pension scheme to contact the Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047 or visit www.pension-scams.com.