European Court rejects UK pensioners’ top-up claim

28 March 2010 by

Carson and Others v The United Kingdom (Application no. 42184/05)

The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a claim by British pensioners living abroad that their pension payments should be uplifted to take into account inflation. The case was supported by Pension Parity UK, a pressure group. The majority in the Court held that the pensions system was not a breach of ECHR Article 14 (non discrimination), saying at [86]:

Given that the pension system is, therefore, primarily designed to serve the needs of those resident in the United Kingdom, it is hard to draw any genuine comparison with the position of pensioners living elsewhere, because of the range of economic and social variables which apply from country to country. Thus, the value of the pension may be affected by any one or a combination of differences in, for example, rates of inflation, comparative costs of living, interest rates, rates of economic growth, exchange rates between the local currency and sterling (in which the pension is universally paid), social security arrangements and taxation systems. As the Court of Appeal noted, it is inescapable that the grant of the up-rate to all pensioners, wherever they might have chosen to live, would have random effects (see paragraph 30 above). Furthermore, as noted by the domestic courts, as non-residents the applicants do not contribute to the United Kingdom’s economy; in particular, they pay no United Kingdom tax to offset the cost of any increase in the pension (see, for example, paragraph 35 above).

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