Pensions Authority compliance alert: Electronic communications and member consent

Thursday 25 May 2017: The Authority is alerting trustees of issues in relation to member consent that should be borne in mind if trustees are considering issuing statutory information electronically.

Under the Occupational Pension Schemes (Disclosure of Information) Regulations, 2006, trustees are legally obliged to provide scheme members with certain information in relation to their retirement savings at numerous points throughout their scheme membership. In general, where members give their consent and trustees are satisfied of their compliance with relevant data protection legislation, this statutory information may be provided to members in electronic format.

Member information

The statutory information provided to members has an important role to play in facilitating member confidence and understanding of their retirement savings. This is necessary if members are to be able to make appropriate and fully informed decisions around their retirement savings. Trustees should bear this in mind when considering whether to issue member communications electronically. In particular, trustees should consider if an electronic medium is appropriate based on the general profile and technological proficiency of their scheme members.

If trustees are satisfied that issuing electronic communications to members is appropriate, the active opt-in consent of scheme members must be obtained in accordance with the principles of data protection law. The Authority has come across several cases where trustees are issuing members with a general notice advising that all communications will be issued electronically in the future unless the member formally objects to this approach.

In the Authority’s view, the fact that a member does not respond to such a notice does not indicate member consent. The Authority expects that all necessary actions will be taken by trustees to obtain active consent from a scheme member and that silence or a lack of objection from the member does not automatically indicate consent.

The Authority may look for evidence that trustees have taken all necessary actions to obtain member consent in its scheme audits and inspections. The Authority also recommends that the acquisition and retention of members’ consent, together with any associated processes and controls be reviewed periodically.

PRSA communications

PRSA providers are also legally obliged to provide PRSA contributors with various statutory materials in relation to their PRSA savings throughout their PRSA membership. The Authority is of the view that where a PRSA contributor actively consents to receive the materials in electronic form, the PRSA provider may issue the relevant statutory information electronically.

As outlined in respect of trustees, if PRSA providers are satisfied that issuing electronic communications is appropriate, the active opt-in consent of PRSA contributors must be appropriately obtained and retained for future reference.  

Related guidance

For further information please review our “Member communications” and “Data protection” codes of governance for DC schemes on our website

For further information contact:

David Malone

Head of Operations

The Pensions Authority

Tel:(01) 6131900

Note to Editors

The Pensions Authority is the statutory body established by the Pensions Act, 1990 to regulate occupational pension schemes, trust based RACs and PRSAs.