P.C. writes: Your recent article on Mercer pension company Mercer was very interesting. 

Our mother-inlaw died last February. Whitbread employed him for twenty years. Mercer tried to get her to accept that she wasn’t entitled to a pension. This was an extremely difficult situation. 

It was a constant call that we had to make, with the exact same results as your report, asking you to first pay. 

Big names: Mercer runs pensions for big corporations including Whitbread, Scottish Power and Morrisons

Big name: Mercer manages pensions for large corporations like Whitbread, Scottish Power, and Morrisons

Whitbread was also a company that my dad worked at. He isn’t interested in seeing this happen again, since Mercer manages Whitbread’s pension. If dad dies first, it would be passed to mum.

Tony Hetherington has the following to say: Since my November article that Mercer was a giant in the world of pensions and manages the retirement programs for household names like Whitbread, Morrisons and Morrisons, there have been many complaints. 

My description of it was a Big Unfriendly Giant seems to have been correct. It even demands that widows give back some of the pension paid by their deceased husbands so the widow can get her own pension.

Numerous readers also experienced similar difficulties. Melvyn told me: ‘When I retired in 2018, it took four to six months to start receiving my pension. I was lucky in that unlike some colleagues, I was not dependent on it.’

Pat wrote: ‘Thank you so much for the article about Mercer and pension payments. This is not a new thing for Mercer, just to be clear. Twelve years ago, I had to involve the Pensions Advisory Service to obtain payment.’

Stephen complained: ‘I retired seven years ago, and my state pension was reduced because of a pension due from Mercer. I was shocked to discover that Mercer hadn’t paid the state any money when I quit my employer, who had a contract-out private plan.

‘It took me 13 months to get it to accept it was responsible for the shortfall in my state pension. It finally paid me £3,000.’

John says he was left permanently out of pocket: ‘I was informed that I and other pensioners had been overpaid for some time.

‘I was told in no uncertain terms that it was entitled to recoup the money in full. As a result of their incompetence, I now have a reduced pension.’

And Bill reports that he is still waiting for his pension: ‘I applied for my pension, administered by Mercer, on December 29, 2020 – now just over a year ago. Despite my attempts to get it, I still have not received one penny. You can see the online reviews. It is a national scandal.’

Bill isn’t the only one. Lynn told me: ‘You are so correct to refer to Mercer as the Big Unfriendly Giant. Since I retired June 2016, I have tried to obtain my pension.

‘Month after month after month goes by, and if I ring I am told it is still working on it, and that I will receive a letter shortly that says when my money will reach my bank account. I have lost faith in this company completely.’

So it’s no surprise that complaints like this make other people wary.

Patricia wrote: ‘I am a Scottish Power pensioner, and I have been told that from January 17 our scheme will be administered by Mercer. It concerns me that this decision was not voted upon. I will try to contact our scheme trustees, but would be grateful if you could bring this change to the attention of others.’

I referred all of my concerns and complaints to Mercer. Even if the complainants had signed an legally binding authority, it refused to comment.

The Big Unfriendly Giant told me: ‘As per our company procedure, we do not comment on individual client or member issues. We can confirm our team is reviewing each of the cases and will be contacting the individuals as a priority to ensure all matters are resolved.’

Let me know if your complaint has been received and you have not heard from Mercer. Please let me know if you are not satisfied with the response from Mercer.

I doubt if there is a carpet at Mercer HQ that is big enough for it to brush every pensioner’s problems under. They need to be seen.

The premium bond number is now up 

Missing prizes: NS&I Premium Bonds remain highly popular

Missing prizes: NS&I Premium Bonds remain highly popular

Ms. R.B. writes: I invested £50,000 in NS&I premium bonds in June 2020, and a few months later I received £75 in prizes. 

However, I have since received four emails from NS&I, congratulating me on winnings covering other months, yet when I use the online prize checker, it tells me I have not won. I have had no joy when trying to contact NS&I about this.

Tony Hetherington has the following to say: I asked officials at the head office of NS&I to look into this and they quickly found the answer. All premium bonds were cashed out in 2006. You then held on to them until 2020 when you put the money back in.

This meant you were given a new bondholder’s number – but when you used the online prize checker, you entered your original 2006 number. 

If you go back online and enter your new number, you will find that you really have won prizes totalling £300.

All these prizes can be found in your bank accounts if you look.

Coinbase has frozen mine 

Frozen: Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has locked a reader out of their account

Frozen: A reader has been locked out by Cryptocurrency Exchange Coinbase.

L.W. writes: Recently, I was inherited money. I decided to invest in cryptocurrency and was doing well until Coinbase froze my account for no apparent reason, under the guise of ‘fraud prevention’. 

I have contacted the firm and been told to be patient and someone will ‘review my account’, but it has now been a few months and I feel completely fobbed off.

Tony Hetherington has the following to say: Coinbase claims that investors can open an account to trade Bitcoin, Ethereum, or other cryptocurrency, but it only takes up queries later.

I would have imagined that any necessary checks – particularly to reject potential money launderers – would have been carried out the moment an investor applied for an account, but apparently not.

It is possible to freeze an account if it is disruptive or inconvenient for customers. I therefore asked Coinbase if it was normal that they could deal immediately, invest instantly and make withdrawals without any delays. Yes, it seems.

The spokesman offered his apologies, but explained: ‘As part of our robust compliance procedures, there are occasionally circumstances where we are required to temporarily freeze a customer’s account.’

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