By Daniel Hunter

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT today (Thursday) launched a market study to examine whether defined contribution workplace pension schemes are set up to deliver the best value for money for savers.

The market for these pensions is going through a period of significant change which will see an expected rise in the value of annual contributions of around £11 billion by 2018.

At present around four million people in the UK are saving into a defined contribution pension scheme. Last October the Government introduced automatic enrolment, an important initiative that requires employers to pay into a workplace pension scheme for all staff unless they opt out.

Automatic enrolment is being staged in over the next six years, starting with larger employers last autumn, followed by medium sized then smaller employers, so that by 2018 an additional six to nine million workers will be enrolled in a scheme.

The OFT has decided to take a forward look now to see whether competition will work in the best interests of these savers to deliver low cost, high quality pension schemes. The market study will focus on value for money and the size of pension pot savers end up with at retirement. It will look at the following:

- How pension providers compete with one another and how the market may develop over time.

- Whether there is sufficient pressure on pension providers to keep charges low, and the extent to which information about charges is made available to savers.

- Whether smaller firms face difficulties in making pension decisions in the interests of their employees.

- Whether smaller firms receive appropriate help and advice in setting up and maintaining workplace pension schemes.

- Barriers to switching between schemes and a potential lack of ongoing employer engagement in setting up and managing pensions.

"The UK workplace pensions market is set for rapid growth and change over the next six years, in particular with the introduction of automatic enrolment," Mary Starks, Senior Director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said.

"It is important that these savers get a good deal. We want to take a look at the market now to ensure that providers are competing to offer the best possible deals, and that the choices made by employers mean that employees are saving into good pension schemes for their retirement."

The OFT will be working closely with the Department of Work and Pensions, the Pensions Regulator, the Financial Services Authority and others during the course of its study. It will also seek input from other key players including the National Association of Pension Funds, the Association of British Insurers, pension providers, trade bodies and those that represent employers and employees. The OFT plans to complete the study by August 2013.

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