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Refunds now available to people overcharged for deputy supervision in England and Wales

Monday, 7 October, 2019

People in England and Wales who were charged excessive deputyship supervision fees by the England and Wales Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) can now begin claiming refunds under a scheme just launched by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The OPG overcharged thousands of people between 1 April 2008 and 31 March 2015 for its supervisory service. The number of deputyships during that period was rising rapidly, but the OPG failed to revise its estimates of the costs of supervision, and continued to charge fees that were much higher than the costs it actually incurred. This is considered unlawful, unless permitted by specific legislative authority.

The fees were revised in April 2015, and clients have not been overcharged since then, says the MoJ. The current assessment fee is GBP100, plus a GBP320 annual fee for general supervision.

More than 80,000 people are now owed refunds, most of which will be less than GBP200, with interest added at 0.5 per cent, says the MoJ. However, according to the Moneysavingexpert website, the average refund will be GBP240, with the total owed being about GBP20 million.

The new scheme is intended for former clients who are now able to make all their own decisions, the former client's attorney, or a personal representative acting on behalf of someone who has died. If there is no estate administrator, a family member can apply. For deceased clients, any refund received should be divided between the beneficiaries of the client's estate, although it is not clear what happens if the client's estate has already been distributed.

Deputies who are still acting under a current court order will get a refund automatically without needing to apply.

The refund system does not apply to fees paid to either Scotland's Office of the Public Guardian, the Office of Care and Protection in Northern Ireland, or the Court of Protection of England and Wales. The deadline for refund claims is 4 October 2022.

This is not the first time the MoJ has had to offer refunds for overcharging. In July 2017, it announced it would to repay GBP89 million overcharged to applicants for lasting powers of attorney, after discovering that the OPG had been charging excessive fees for issuing them since 2013. That mistake also came about because the number of applications had increased sharply, and the efficiency savings made by the OPG through the increased volumes had not been passed on the clients.

Sources