The following text reproduces the television report of the programme plus minus from 19.09.2006:
In order to strengthen private old-age provision, an employee’s right to deferred compensation was enshrined in law in 2001 in the case of occupational pension provision (Section 1 a of the Occupational Pensions Act). In addition, such payments receive tax and social security benefits. Subsequently, many such contracts were concluded. At least three million employees pay part of their remuneration into company pension schemes.
Now it turns out: many of these contracts are a bad deal for employees. This is especially true if the premiums are initially used to pay the agents’ commission. If the employee has to terminate the old-age provision contract prematurely, for example because he becomes unemployed or changes jobs, he will not even get out again for years what he has already paid in.
Now there are court rulings which condemn the employer to compensate the employee for the damage (e.g. Amtsgericht Stuttgart 19 Ca 3152/04 v. 17.1.2005) because the employer did not inform the employee about impending losses due to conclusion and cancellation costs. To understand: the employer enters into the insurance contract, into which the employee then pays.
The presiding judge of the Federal Labour Court, Dr. Gerhard Reinecke, who heads the senate responsible for occupational pensions, is even of the opinion that these “zillmerised” tariffs are not permissible in principle in occupational pensions. tariffs in occupational pensions are not permissible in principle. The employer is liable regardless of fault.
Background: There are great opportunities for insurance companies in this market thanks to state subsidies. The costs involved in the contracts are almost impossible for the contracting parties to comprehend. Ralph Kiening, fee consultant of the Bamberg European Pension Services, means in addition from his practice: “For the craftsman, for the company boss, for the employee is not at all evident, which costs are contained in the contracts.”
The “Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband” in Berlin has already obtained a judgement against Allianz Pensionskasse because of the lack of transparency of the acquisition costs.
Consumer protector Dorothea Kleine sees problems above all when employees are charged commissions in advance: “In case of doubt, this leads to financial losses, but not to the establishment of a sensible old-age provision; only the sales department profits. This cannot be in the sense of a national age precaution promotion. That is why we demand a ban on such contracts.”
For companies, the liability rulings also raise the question: Do potential damages have to be included in the balance sheet? Johannes Fiala, a lawyer from Munich who specialises in company pension schemes, points out that this can have nasty consequences: “In an example case from our company with 1,200 employees, 1.2 million euros were paid in each of the three years, 3.6 million in total. The actuary involved has calculated that three million of that is missing. Only 0.6 million remain today. If the company had to put the missing three million on its balance sheet, it would be broke today.”
The boss is guaranteed not to be threatened with claims for damages if he calls in a neutral adviser at his own expense instead of the usual intermediary. In return for a fee, the latter assists him in the selection of contracts that are favourable and do not include any acquisition costs. For the employees, this makes itself felt as a fat plus in the company pension.
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About the author
Dr. Johannes Fiala has been working for more than 25 years as a lawyer and attorney with his own law firm in Munich. He is intensively involved in real estate, financial law, tax and insurance law. The numerous stages of his professional career enable him to provide his clients with comprehensive advice and to act as a lawyer in the event of disputes.
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