Tony Hetherington is the ace investigator on Sunday’s Financial Mail, fighting readers’ corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and securing victory for those left out of pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
PS writes: Nest Pension converted my pension savings from a Sharia fund of my choosing and into its own post retirement fund, and then back it back to me a few days later.
All this was done without my permission and I would never have come to know about it if I had not accidentally seen the relevant investment page online.
I lost money through this unauthorized switch and I informed Nest in July but it is giving me a runaround.
Error: Nest 90 savers’ investments changed as a result of a system update
Tony Hetherington replies: The email you sent me shows that you tried to resolve this over the phone and Nest’s online chat service, but got nowhere even after asking when you switched funds, while the whole thing was that you didn’t make any switches.
So, on July 10th, you emailed Nest your complaint and your questions and were told, ‘This issue should be resolved within seven working days’.
It certainly wasn’t resolved, but emails continued to flow, with assurances that an ‘incident team’ was actively investigating, while at the same time you were faced with ridiculous questions including a request that You should tell Nest when the fund switch happened, despite the fact that it was Nest that made the switch.
By the time you contacted me, we were in September and you still hadn’t received an explanation from Nest, a public body set up by the government more than a decade ago to legally make the most of what employers do. Provides workplace pension plans after being obliged to. Employees save for retirement.
Nest’s nearly silence made you wonder if there was some sort of system problem, and that your own unauthorized fund changes weren’t an isolated error.
And you were right. My own inquiries with Nest brought to light 90 pension savers who were affected by similar changes in their investments.
The explanation is that as Nest savers approach their expected retirement date, they are prompted to review their plans.
If they don’t make any changes, Nest itself converts them to a fund run by itself, which should be more secure and stable.
It happens every June, but this year an update to Nest’s computer system went wrong and members were kicked out of their chosen investment, even though they tried to say they were happy.
Nest soon realized that things had gone horribly wrong, so it transferred all 90 of the savers back to their original investment fund.
However, the second error occurred after the original error. Nest has told me that it wrote to affected members in July, but it acknowledges that for no apparent reason, you were never notified.
Of the 90 Nest savers hit by a system error, 31 actually benefited from the replacement investment while 59 — you included — lost money.
31 would be allowed to maintain its profits, and Nest 59 would be on top to put back the losing accounts as they should be. Your own loss was £149, and a credit for this should now be shown in your account.
Robin Lewis, Head of Service Delivery at Nest, said: ‘We have spoken with Mr. S. to express our sincere regret for the level of service he has received and what has happened.’
The system error is being fixed, and sensibly Nest will give it a dry run before loosening it up on savers’ real money.
A customer has never had a transaction with Vodafone, but was told he owed the firm hundreds
Vodafone’s debt is not mine
Mrs GW writes: I have received a letter from Vodafone and its borrowers claiming that I owe £214.
However, I have never had any transaction with Vodafone, nor have I received any previous correspondence from the company. I called the borrowers, who were useless.
I then called Vodafone and was told that the account looked fake and someone would call me back, but that never happened.
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me that you made one last attempt to call Vodafone, but you hit a brick wall when you could not answer its security questions. But how can you be, when the account is not yours?
With Vodafone and its borrowers slapping another £27 in costs on the bill, and listing you with the credit agencies as the debtor, I made a simple request: can I have a copy of your Vodafone contract, Please?
Three days later, Vodafone told me that it has canceled the demand and cleared your credit file.
It explained: ‘The account was fraudulently withdrawn by someone who had Mrs. W’s personal details’.
It’s a shame that Vodafone didn’t handle it better when you alerted it to the problem.
We’re looking at you: Firm fined £50,000 over illegal calls on pensions
In charge: Ashley Parkin-Beecher
A company that made illegal sales calls to people about their pension savings has been fined £50,000 by the Office of the Information Commissioner for breaching a ban implemented in 2019.
Parkin Beecher Ltd., which also calls itself Your Pension Option, offers an advisor to review pension plans by arranging an introduction.
Andy Curry, head of investigation at ICOs, said: ‘Cold calls are a common way to cheat people out of their pensions, and we will take strong action where we find companies doing this kind of marketing.’
The Halifax-based company is run by Ashley Parkin-Beecher, and last April I warned that another of her company, Your Options Ltd., was claiming to be run by experts specializing in financial services.
In fact, they were salesmen marketing the high-risk Choice bond, which had promised to pay 7 per cent interest, failing to ascertain the potential loss.