An employee (Mr Moulton) of Argos Limited ("Argos") brought a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman based on his unhappiness at how his application for an early retirement pension under the Argos and Home Retail Group Pension Scheme ("the Scheme") had been handled by both Argos and the trustee of the Scheme. The administration of the Scheme was carried out in-house by Argos employees and payment of the pension in these circumstances was subject to Argos' consent, as principal employer of the Scheme.
In this case, the member's application for early retirement was delayed during a consultation conducted by the employer on changes to the Scheme and the administrators had provided statements which had been somewhat misleading to the individual about whether early retirement enhancements would be granted or not. The Ombudsman focused on the actions of the administrators as representative of Argos and remitted the decision back to Argos for review.
It appears that the Ombudsman has treated the actions of the administrators as those of Argos, their employer, although of course they were acting for the trustees. However, presumably, in the light of the IBM case (see our pensions pieces article), it appears that the Ombudsman is more ready to consider actions by the employer and its employees to be a breach of this duty, which is likely to affect both its decisions and the level of damages awarded.