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Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 18:04 UK

Thousands have pensions delayed

Jonathan Yates, Managing Director of Windsor Life Assurance
The boss of Windsor Life expressed his "regret" to customers affected

Several thousand people have been left without their pensions after their insurer's systems went into meltdown.

Windsor Life (WL) was swamped with phone calls from customers after taking over Tomorrow, a company formerly known GE Life, late last year.

WL, a subsidiary of the insurance giant Swiss Re, received five times more calls than the 3000 a week it expected.

Some savers have had to wait for months for their pensions to start, after retiring since the takeover took place.

Log-jam

However, Windsor Life's problems, in integrating computer systems after the takeover, have also affected customers who were already receiving their pensions.

I believe they've been sitting on it and basically it's whilst they've been sitting on it that it's dropped,
Reg Hatherley

The company inherited 400,000 new customers and has received around 2,500 complaints so far.

Customer Reg Hatherley is very worried that the log-jam at Windsor Life may have reduced the size of his annuity.

If there is a delay in cashing in the personal pension policies then the funds can vary in value with the stockmarket.

"I believe they've been sitting on it and basically it's whilst they've been sitting on it that it's dropped," he said.

In December he asked to take his pension and was told he had built up a fund of 43,000 but he was warned that the sum could vary.

In February he was offered a pension based on a fund value of just 32,000, with the regular payment from his annuity only starting recently, after the BBC's Working Lunch intervened.

"Whether it's down to the drop in interest rates and the stockmarket, they should still have paid me at the date that I asked surely," said Mr Hatherley.

Financial loss

Malcolm McLean, the boss of The Pensions Advisory Service, says insurance companies must not acquire other firms only for customers to lose out.

Malcolm McLean from The Pensions Advisory Service
The Pensions Advisory Service says customers must not lose out

"If someone has actually incurred delay, and in consequence of that delay has suffered financial loss because their pension pot has dropped from the date when they should have got it, to the date they actually are going to get it, then they will have certainly a claim for compensation on the grounds of financial loss," Malcolm explained.

The boss of Windsor Life, Jonathan Yates, expressed his "regret" to customers on Working Lunch.

"Everybody who has suffered a loss, and that has been brought to our attention - obviously we're investigating these proactively as well - will be compensated, " he told the programme.

He said the company has almost doubled the number of people at its call centre and reduced the waiting time for callers.

Anyone experiencing an unacceptable delay can make a formal complaint in writing to the Compliance Officer of Windsor Life.

They should receive a response within 28 days. But customers still dissatisfied with a final response should contact The Pensions Advisory Service for further advice.

YOUR EMAILS

Have you been affected by the problems at Windsor Life? Or do you have a view or comment on this story? Get in touch with Working Lunch via email now.


Two months ago, my wife and I asked, via our IFA, for our pensions to start on 25th April, we have been chasing it since and have written to Windsor Life.

To date, we have not had any acknowledgement of the letter or the request for the pensions.

Equally we do not have our pension and are concerned as to how long it will be before the situation is resolved.

Roger & Lesley Mitchell


I dare say my problems aren't as great as other people's but it is still significant to me. I always planned to start my pension after the start of this tax year and, to this end, I wrote to Windsor Life on 20 February asking them to set it up from 20 April.

They responded on 5 March confirming that I would receive my pension from 20 April so this was fine.

To be on the safe side, I telephoned Windsor Life around 10 days before the pension was due to start and was assured that my pension would start as arranged.

As you can doubtless guess, I have received not a penny as yet. I realise it is not long overdue but my two points are:

I did everything in good time to enable Windsor Life to carry out my simple request.

As a retired person, my income is much reduced and I need to know that what I am due is hitting my bank account when it is due.

I have clearly been fed a load of bull which makes me feel even angrier.

Robert Mansfield


I had a Tomorrow pension due for payment in January 2008. Tomorrow received the relevant documents by registered post on 18th December 2007 and if all was ok with paperwork I would receive my lump sum within 10 working days.

After numerous phone calls I still have not received my pension. I had a phone call from Windsor Life on 14/04/08 apologising for the delay but they could not tell me when I would receive my pension.

However, they said they would lodge a complaint on my behalf and I would receive acknowledgement of my complaint within five working days. It is now 26th April and I have not heard a thing!

I am very worried if I will every get my pension and if I do what value will it have.

Diana Merrett


My pension was set up to be drawn on my 62nd birthday at the end of March 2008. The plan was originally taken out with National Mutual but was later transferred to GE Life and then Tomorrow.

These transfers were seamless and Tomorrow wrote to me in December 2008 advising me that they would write to me six weeks prior to the maturity date so that I could make a considered decision on what to do with the pot.

Of course this did not happen and I am now struggling to get a response from Winsor Life. Ray Savill


Can I say firstly, that I am an avid fan of your programme and being retired I am able to watch it most days - it stops me worrying about my fuel bills for a short time at least! I am one of those affected by the Windsor Life debacle, as my pension was originally with GE Life. I have my pension paid twice yearly, October and April when I receive two separate amounts each time, one on the 1st and one on the 5th of the month.

This April I failed to receive my first payment but did get the 2nd on time. After a number of phone calls I eventually got my missing payment some 14 days late, which going by some of your viewers' complaints was actually not bad!

However, what really upset me was both the cost and duration of the phone calls needed to sort out the problem. I was constantly put on hold for upwards of 10 minutes with one call lasted 18 minutes, and to add insult to injury it turns out the phone number we are given to ring is a premium rate line.

Keep up the good work,

Stuart Brown


Yes, it is true that Windsor Life have created an "overflow" call centre to take calls when the usual helpline is not available.

However, these people have no access to any information and simply take details of the enquiry to pass on. They quote urgent call backs as five working days and most timescales are given as 20 to 30 working days.

Even when a timescale has been given Windsor Life are failing to honour. Did it not cross their minds that taking on 400,000 extra customers might result in additional work?

The staff who previously worked for Tomorrow are still there - what are they doing that they weren't doing before? And why is it taking them so long to not do it?

It is completely unacceptable if people are losing out financially. Windsor really must make take seriously the appalling service levels they are providing at the moment.

Sheila Burr

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