In response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s new anti-consumer “notice-and-access” disclosure regulation that goes into effect today, the Pension Rights Center is urging workers and retirees to tell their pension and 401(k) plans that they want to continue receiving their key retirement information on paper – not just by getting a text or email saying that the information is on a website.
The “Ask for Paper!” Call to Action is an educational effort aimed at alerting consumers about a new Labor Department rule that could adversely affect their ability to plan for retirement and prove their entitlement to benefits. It will provide workers, retirees, and their spouses with practical information on how to protect themselves and will also educate members of Congress about how this rule will result in millions of workers and retirees no longer receiving critical information about their retirement plans and benefits. The Pension Rights Center is coordinating its activities with consumer groups and retiree organizations, unions and business groups.
Although studies show that there is a huge digital divide in this country – based on geography, education, income, race/ethnicity and age – the new rule gives retirement plans the green light to simply send individuals a notice by text or email telling them that key information is available on a website. Then it’s up to the workers and retirees to hunt that information down – effectively making this “notice-and-access” rule into a “no-access” rule.
“We are astonished that in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis and economic collapse that the Department of Labor would issue a regulation that will leave so many workers, retirees and their spouses in the dark about their retirement plans and benefits,” says Karen Friedman, the Pension Rights Center’s Executive Vice President. “At a time when people need information to protect themselves more than ever, this rule is like a cruel game of Hide and Seek where workers and retirees are blindfolded and sent into an electronic abyss where they will have to fumble around searching for the information they will need to protect their future.”
Up until now, the Labor Department followed a commonsense rule: Plans sent out information on paper, through the mail, unless people regularly worked with computers or asked to go “paperless.” While retirement plans are still allowed to operate under the old rule, the practical reality is, most won’t. Notice-and-access is easier and cheaper for plans – but many workers and retirees will pay a steep price. Their chances of getting the information they are legally entitled to receive will be greatly diminished.
As part of the “Ask for Paper!” Call to Action, PRC has published three facts sheets on the new rule: A guide for consumers, a detailed summary, and a list of the “The Top 10 Worst Things” about the new rule.
Here are some excerpts from the Top Ten list:
The notice-and-access rule may sound arcane but will be widely adopted by plans and financial institutions and will have a huge impact on the retirement security of workers and retirees. PRC is alerting people that they have the right to ask for paper and that, if it isn’t clear how to do this, urging them to call and write their employers and plan administrators.
The Pension Rights Center is a 44-year-old consumer group that works to promote and protect the retirement income security of workers, retirees, and their families.