In its latest consultation document on changes to the disclosure requirements, the DWP proposes to allow compliance by means of electronic disclosure to members. From October 2010 it is proposed that schemes will be allowed to use electronic communications as their default method of communication; members can opt out if they want hard copies. Schemes will also, subject to certain safeguards, be able to give access on request to scheme documentation and other information by placing the information on a website.
The consultation document includes draft regulations proposing amendments to the disclosure requirements in occupational, personal and stakeholder pension schemes and the Government response to the 2009 consultation on the same topic. A major part of the 2009 consultation was a proposal to move, wherever possible, to a “principles based” approach to disclosure, with prescribed time limits being replaced by “reasonable periods”. This has now been abandoned. Concerns were expressed about uncertainty and the potential expense of ensuring compliance. The insertion of a disclosure principle was intended to be a pilot for principles-based pensions legislation more generally. The idea of consolidating all pensions disclosure provisions into one set of regulations has been postponed. The responses to it were mixed as the advantages could be outweighed by the unwieldiness of a single set of regulations. The DWP is going to give further consideration to this.
The changes to the disclosure regime are intended to come into force on 1 October 2010 (rather than March, as originally envisaged) and to be permissive: the DWP says “schemes should not need to make changes to remain compliant with the requirements”. The key changes are generally smaller in scope than the 2009 consultation envisaged and most relate to a simplification of Statutory Money Purchase Illustrations.
The DWP consultation on disclosure can be found here