Mercer is all at sea again over your pensions and trying to pay missing monies over 25 years!: TONY HETHERINGTON investigates
Tony Hetherington is Financial Mail on Sunday’s ace investigator, fighting readers corners, revealing the truth that lies behind closed doors and winning victories for those who have been left out-of-pocket. Find out how to contact him below.
Ms B.S. writes: I was to receive 71 per cent of my ex-husband’s pension from the Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund, awarded by the court in 2019 as he also has another pension.
I expected to receive about £646 a month, but the pension administrators Mercer did not pay me a penny for a year, and then paid £448 a month. My ex-husband and I both spoke to a financial adviser, who said there were always problems dealing with Mercer.
I asked where the payment arrears were, and Mercer is now paying me the missing money at £20 a month, which I reckon will take about 25 years. I have come close to a breakdown through all this. Mercer eventually offered me £1,000 if I signed a ‘gagging order’. I refused.
Adrift: Mercer has struggled to pay a pension from the Merchant Navy Ratings Pension Fund
Tony Hetherington replies: Since I first wrote about the serious problems at Mercer last November, complaints have never stopped. And this is no corner shop operation. Mercer is a huge company, running the retirement schemes of major businesses such as Morrisons and Whitbread. Yet when pensioners complain, this huge company behaves like a Big Unfriendly Giant.
I asked Mercer to comment on what you told me and I offered to get your signature to a legally binding letter to authorise it to discuss your pension with me. Mercer simply refused point blank.
And you are not alone in being badly treated. Other Mail on Sunday readers face similar problems. Steve told me: ‘Mercer administered my two pension funds with Express Newspapers. In September 2020, I accepted a retirement benefit statement from Mercer, but I have received no payment at all. Instead, they say they made a mistake and the funds are not there. My health, physical and mental, is suffering under the immense strain Mercer’s error has put on me.’
Gary wrote: ‘I have a pension with Britvic. I contacted Mercer last September for a pension quote and received an automated acknowledgement. In October, Mercer said the scheme was on hold due to an actuarial review.
‘In November, I telephoned Mercer and was told to wait four weeks for a response. I am still waiting. I cannot believe Mercer can continue trading with such poor service.’ Geoff complained: ‘I first requested transfer values for my Aga Rangemaster pension back in January 2019. Mercer’s procrastination for 15 months led them finally to tell me that during this period my pension plan had lost £34,000. I have contacted the Pensions Ombudsman but have warned that getting any information from Mercer will be an onerous task.’
And Nick told me: ‘I have been owed my Smiths Industries pension since December 2. It is administered by Mercer. I am beside myself with worry and sleepless nights as all I get from them is avoidance and delay. I have received no pension, no apology and no explanation.’
Even when a pension is being paid, Mercer still manages to create big problems. British Energy Generation Group pensioner Kenneth received a shock letter. He told me: ‘It says my pension has been overpaid by £14,748. They are not seeking to reclaim this, but they are cutting my pension from £14,148 a year to £12,570. They are robbing my pension to cover up their mistake.’
I put every one of these complaints to Mercer. It replied: ‘As per our company policy, we do not comment on individual members or client matters.’
I was told that every reader mentioned here would be contacted directly by Mercer with answers. And Mercer added that it had already contacted every pensioner whose complaints had already been published.
So, if your problem with the Big Unfriendly Giant appears here, or has already been in The Mail on Sunday, let me know when Mercer gives its answers. Its current conduct is simply not acceptable.
Sued for £198…when I have never even received the bill
A.C. writes: I switched from Together Energy (owned by Total Energy) to a different supplier, and it told me it would cancel my direct debit.
Now I have received an email from solicitors AJJB Law, threatening to sue me for failing to pay £198.
Tony Hetherington replies: You told me that the lawyer’s letter came out of the blue, and you had received no previous bill. And AJJB Law’s letter – headed Pending Legal Action – began by saying, ‘We have not received payment of the overdue balance…’, reinforcing the idea that you ignored demands. I asked Leonard James, the solicitor behind AJJB Law, for proof that you were in debt, including copies of demands already issued.
He offered no evidence, but told me he would be ‘liaising with my client on these issues’. Together Energy told me it had definitely written to you and it has sent a copy of its final bill for £198. But this says payment would be collected from your bank account, yet Together Energy had scrapped your direct debit.
The company admitted: ‘The customer should have been billed within ten working days. However, due to a systems error on that date it was not automatically collected and we apologise for this error.’ You have accepted the apology and as you had never intended to sidestep a genuine bill, you have paid the £198.
If you believe you are the victim of financial wrongdoing, write to Tony Hetherington at Financial Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TS or email [email protected]. Because of the high volume of enquiries, personal replies cannot be given. Please send only copies of original documents, which we regret cannot be returned.