Justice ministry to repay GBP89 million of powers of attorney overcharges
The fees charged – GBP110 until April 2017 – were well above the costs the OPG incurred in processing the applications. Government agencies are not permitted to do this unless they have specific legislative authority.
The mistake came about because many more people have been registering for lasting powers of attorney in recent years, said the OPG. 'Increased volumes, coupled with greater efficiencies in processing applications, have resulted in fees being charged above the operational cost of delivering the service, without the Ministry of Justice having exercised the power provided by legislation to allow us to do this', it said.
As a result of these economies of scale, the agency's total income for the year was 148 per cent of its costs.
The many thousands of customers who were overcharged will be refunded during the current financial year, the agency says. Full details of the refund scheme will be announced 'in due course'. The amount owed is estimated at GBP89 million.
'We are committed to taking such steps as are necessary to make sure that people are made aware of, and receive, the refunds to which they are entitled' said the agency. 'We will be working closely with MoJ and its new income strategy unit, which will oversee the standards and controls set for all income streams. We have also made a number of improvements to the way in which we forecast demand and associated costs, in order to enable us to base fee proposals on robust evidence and to ensure compliance with requirements set by HM Treasury.'
The overcharging has since been remedied. On 1 April 2017, the OPG reduced the fees for applying to register lasting powers of attorney and enduring powers of attorney from GBP110 to GBP82. This is still an 'enhanced fee', meaning that it is still more than the cost of supplying the service, with the surplus income being used to fund wider functions of the OPG that run at a loss, such as administering the supervision of court deputies. It is allowed to do this under special provisions contained in the Anti-social Behaviour Act.
- Office of the Public Guardian (annual report, PDF file)
- Ministry of Justice (annual report, PDF file)
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