NETHERLANDS - The large collective pension funds such as civil service scheme ABP are providing a substandard service to their members, according to the Dutch liberal party.

They claim customers usually don’t have any notion of what is happening with their money, and they are hardly able to find out, even with the help of experts.

The party, the second largest party in the three-strong ruling coalition, made the comments in their concept election manifesto.

They say the present schemes are too collective and can work out very much to the disadvantage of pension holders who change jobs and therefore their pension scheme.

That’s why the liberals want to grant individuals the right to make their own private pension arrangements which they can move from job to job.

“The present situation is limiting labour mobility, which is one of the problems in filling vacancies,” explains Geert Dales, who chairs the manifesto commission.

Dales, who recently became mayor of the town of Leeuwarden and had to swap pension funds, speaks from personal experience.

“It caused a substantial loss, and it’s all legal,” he told IPE. “Pension funds treat their customers like subordinates,” he added.

“Months of inquiries to ABP about how to bridge the gap, and for example how its money is invested, has lead to nothing so far.”

He stresses his party doesn’t want to change the state pension, known as AOW, which citizens can claim at 65. However the liberals want to make this age non-compulsory for occupations without a compulsory age limit based on physical or security considerations.

“We can’t communicate enough about pensions,” agrees ABP spokesman Marcel Vleugels. “But the information is getting increasingly complicated, due to ever faster changes in the investment market.

“We try to explain developments in ordinary language in our magazine and in the yearly pension summary which we send out to all our 2.2 million customers. And the fact ABP has won the last two IPE-awards for the best pension fund of Europe, might be an indication that our communication can’t be that bad.”