Platform Transfers and Judicial Reviews

I have written about the unreasonable delays in doing a platform transfer of a SIPP previously and on the slow and inadequate response to a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman – see here:

The platform transfer took over 5 months and my complaint to the Ombudsman was commenced in May 2021. I accepted £350 for the delays from one provider and have now received a derisory offer of £50 from the receiving platform as part of a “Final Decision” by the Ombudsman, which I have rejected.

My only options now are to either pursue a Judicial Review of the Ombudsman decision or pursue a direct legal claim. Neither are really very practical. On the grounds of expense and my time involvement for a relatively minor claim it would not be sensible to take either option.

The whole point of a Financial Ombudsman is that it should enable claims to be pursued for failures in financial institutions without going to the expense of a full legal claim. It’s falling down on the job in essence. It also apparently considers a transfer time of over 5 months to be not unreasonable despite the fact that there were clearly avoidable delays and inefficiency in the process by both sending and receiving platforms. The FCA really does need to take up this issue of long platform transfers which are simply anti-competitive. They need to follow Alexander’s example with the Gordian Knot and take a sword to slice through the complexity.

Incidentally a recent publication on Judicial Reviews may be of interest. A Judicial Review is a legal process that enables you to challenge decisions by central or local Government bodies or where the law may have been applied incorrectly by tribunals or other courts. It has been widely used of late by environmental lobbyists to challenge planning decisions but it can also be helpful on other issues. For example an application for a judicial review was made in the Northern Rock nationalisation case.

But they are not always easy cases to pursue because they are not judged on moral principles but simply on the legal technicalities. Cases can be thrown out before they are even heard by judges if they are not handled correctly and do not meet certain criteria. For example cases need to be raised as soon as possible after the issue comes to the attention of litigants or at least within 3 months.

A recent publication by the Courts and Judicial Tribunal entitled “Administrative Court Judicial Review Guide” is exceedingly helpful in explaining what is required and the process that must be followed – see link below. It even explains how “litigants in person” are supported if you do not wish to pay for professional legal representation yourself. And it covers the issue of costs which must be taken into account which litigants may need to pay (and the defendants costs if you lose the case).

Costs can vary wildly. For example this writer has been involved in two judicial reviews. The first was a challenge to the suspension of a hearing in a magistrate’s court on an alleged motoring offence when a key prosecution witness failed to turn up. This cost me less than £2,000 in court fees and my own solicitor’s fees. The case was referred back to the magistrate’s court when the witness again failed to appear so the case was abandoned.

The other was the challenge to the Government’s nationalisation of Northern Rock where legal costs of both sides were several million pounds. The court refused to overturn the decision in parliament by Labour MPs to force nil compensation to shareholders.

One can apply for a “cost cap” to stop the defendants running up enormous bills which Government bodies and Councils can otherwise easily do. And note that if a claim is over an environmental issue then the Arhaus Convention can be invoked to limit costs further. See the Guide in Section 25 for more details.

Although it is possible to pursue a judicial review without legal representation I would recommend that people contemplating a judicial review do take some advice from solicitors familiar with the process. It is particularly worth noting this statement in the Guide: “In judicial review proceedings, the Court’s function is to determine whether the decision or conduct challenged was a lawful exercise of a public function, not to assess the merits of the decision or conduct under challenge. It is therefore seldom necessary or appropriate to consider any evidence going beyond what was before the decision-maker and evidence about the process by which the decision was taken – let alone any expert evidence”.

In summary judicial reviews can be a useful tool for those challenging decisions of a public body but you need to adhere to the rules laid down by the courts including the timescales. The Guide is very helpful in that regard.

Administrative Court Judicial Review Guide 2022:

Roger Lawson (Twitter:  )

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