In ARJO Wiggins Limited v Ralph, the High Court considered whether the Pensions Ombudsman could consider a complaint which would have been statute barred if the same complaint had been made in court proceedings.
Mr Ralph had brought a complaint to the Pensions Ombudsman alleging that he had been given negligent advice by his employer's pension department in 1986. The Ombudsman upheld his complaint.
On appeal, the High Court rejected the argument that the Pensions Ombudsman did not have jurisdiction to investigate or determine a claim that would be statute barred under the Limitation Act 1980, if brought by way of court proceedings. In doing so, it noted that a complaint of pure maladministration, which is not actionable in court, is not subject to any limitation period. The Court also concluded that the Ombudsman is able to exercise his powers in relation to such a complaint.
However, whilst finding that the Ombudsman had jurisdiction to determine the complaint, the Court also held that he was bound to give effect to a "valid limitation defence". Therefore, it seems that limitation periods cannot be used to prevent a claim from being heard by the Pensions Ombudsman, but they are crucial in determining the outcome of that claim.