The charging structure to Aviva’s Optimiser/Lifestyler Jersey Pensions has baffled even Aviva who recently discovered that they could have levied more charges to customers than they actually did. This may not be too much of a surprise because even the information supplied to their customers on their charges was far from clear.
Aside from an annual management charge, an administration charge and certain other charges, Aviva discovered that an extra plan management charge could also have been levied on their Optimiser product. However, for several years, going back to at least 2010, the annual plan management charge of 0.375% of these pension funds was not taken by Aviva, although their “mistake” was actually discovered in 2012.
Instead, in a belated billing bonanza, Aviva have simply written to affected customers recently notifying them that their accounts were being debited with the extra charges, basically as some fait accompli.
In any other business, I can’t believe that telling a customer years down the line that an earlier bill was wrong because more might have been charged, and here’s the extra bill, would be tolerated.
Unfortunately, Aviva’s annual pension statements, covering this period of incompetence, will have been relied upon by customers as being accurate. Further, in recouping these late charges, Aviva is in breach of its own contract to take its charges annually. At the very least, you might have expected some reduction in the belated charges just out of recognition for the distress caused to customers by virtue of Aviva’s own internal errors. However this has not happened.
Aviva state that they referred their intention to make these belated charges to the FCA – although they have not made the relevant correspondence available. The matter has now been referred to the UK Financial Ombudsman who, one hopes, will expect high standards of care from pension providers both in the clarity of information provided to consumers and in the application of charges.