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Change in the law needed to liberate data for new pensions dashboard, says industry

The government must change the law to liberate pensions data and enable savers to access all their information in one place online, an industry group has said.13 Oct 2017

The Pensions Dashboard Project made the recommendation in a new report (86-page / 2.44MB PDF) that sets out an overall ambition to provide citizens with "a right to access information about all of their pensions in one place of their choice in a standardised digital format, via regulated services".

To achieve this, a change in the law is needed to require all pension providers and schemes to "make data available to consumers via regulated third parties, including occupational, personal and public service pension schemes", the report said.

It also called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to "make data about the state pension available alongside private pension information from day one".

The government announced in 2016 that a new pensions dashboard would be created to allow savers to see their various retirement income streams in one place. The idea behind the initiative is to help people to make more informed decisions about their retirement savings.

A prototype dashboard was delivered by the Pensions Dashboard Project in March. The group is managed by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) but has representation from organisations across the pensions industry as well as from technology companies. The ABI said the group had also consulted with consumer groups on its work.

The Pensions Dashboard Project said that the government should endorse a "non-commercial service" and that other "regulated third parties" should be allowed to display the data to consumers via "open pensions infrastructure".

"Dashboards and any other third party services showing consumers their data must be regulated to ensure consistency," the report said. "Consumer protection requires legislation to establish one or more new regulated activities, which are most likely to be overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)."

The Pensions Dashboard Project called on the government and industry to agree on an implementation plan and timetable, including on how the initiative should be funded, and that an "implementation entity" should be set up to deliver the new service. It also recommended that a new governance body be established to, among other things, establish and manage data standards and be accountable for data security and setting up data sharing agreements.

The data that pension providers and schemes would have to make available would need to conform to "agreed standards" mandated by the government and regulators, it said, while access to the information should be provided for through "an identity assurance scheme". The Pensions Dashboard Project said a policy decision about the use of the government-backed Verify scheme for ID assurance needs to be made "in this context".

Yvonne Braun, ABI director of policy, long-term savings and protection, said: "The potential of a pensions dashboard style service is exciting. Our recent research has found the majority of consumers easily see the value of the concept, are genuinely excited by it, and imagine it would encourage them to save and plan more effectively for later life."

"We have the support of the public and we know the technology works. It’s time for the government to lay its cards on the table and be clear about what it is prepared to commit to this important project, and when. For such a service to succeed it needs to be as comprehensive as possible, as soon as possible, and anything which involves people’s life savings must be effectively regulated. We need a clear timetable for implementation and legislation so we can turn this great concept into a genuine public service," she said.