A cautionary tale;Personal Finance

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Kate Ivy checked her pension fund and found it pound;2,500 short. So watch out: computer bugs could be around, she warns.

Since March 1993 I have been boosting my pension though AVCs. But I did not realise until February last year that I should be receiving yearly statements. After a colleague pointed this out, I immediately telephoned the Prudential, who sent me a statement. It was incorrect on two counts.

* My date of birth was wrong.

* The amount in my account did not tally with my calculations.

I wrote to the company pointing out the errors and received an amended statement with the correct date of birth, plus several statements for 1992 to 1996. The sums quoted appeared to be correct.

In October last year I received a further statement for March 1996 to March 1997. The amount that was said to be in my account on March 1996 was pound;2,500 less than that mentioned in the previous statement. Accordingly, the amount given for March 1997 was about pound;2,500 less than I had calculated.

I wrote to complain and did not receive a reply. I wrote again on November 17. This time I was told that the matter would be investigated and that I would receive a reply within three weeks.

On January 14 this year, I eventually received a letter stating that the Prudential was right and enclosing records to "prove" this. In desperation I contacted the National Union of Teachers, who put me on to a contact within the Prudential. He was most helpful.

At his request I sent him full records of my correspondence with his company, plus copies of pay slips to show the AVC payments I had made. It still took roughly two months to sort out.

My contact in the Prudential explained that there had been a change of computer system during the time I had been paying AVCs. He suggested that this was when the mistake occurred. It could only be sorted out by someone manually going through all the payments I had made via the local education authority.

In the end I received an apology and a statement showing all my payments and bonuses. The Prudential also sent me a cheque for pound;40 in compensation.

Nevertheless, I still have two concerns:

* How could the Prudential mismanage my account so badly, especially after I had complained several times, enclosing evidence of my payments?

* How many other accounts are showing incorrect amounts?

I hope that other teachers will learn from my experience and now check their accounts.

Kate Ivy is co-ordinator of a speech and language centre for primary-aged children in Cambridge

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