The ‘frozen pensions’ case, which was rejected by the House of Lords in 2005, has now moved to the European Court of Human Rights.
The case was brought by a UK pensioner living in South Africa. Because South Africa does not have a reciprocal arrangement with the UK, the amount of pension payable to a person who emigrates there is frozen when they move. This does not apply when pensioners move to countries that do have a reciprocal arrangement, such as the USA or Canada. UK pensioners living in those countries are eligible for the normal annual increases that UK resident (and EU resident) pensioners receive.
The case was brought by Annette Carson, who emigrated to South Africa and continued to pay her UK pension contributions. She retired in 2000 and did not receive an uplift to her pension in 2001 or in subsequent years.
She is arguing that she has been discriminated against on the grounds that her residence in South Africa is a ‘personal characteristic’ for the purposes of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
If successful, more than half a million UK pensioners currently living abroad stand to receive increases in their state pensions.
Judgment is expected in the spring of 2010.