Thursday 19 October 2017

Bank forced to apologise after 'fixer' letters sent to customers

'Bank of Ireland said no customers switched from a tracker rate on foot of the January letter, which was sent in error' Photo: Bloomberg
'Bank of Ireland said no customers switched from a tracker rate on foot of the January letter, which was sent in error' Photo: Bloomberg
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Bank of Ireland has been forced to apologise after "mistakenly" sending letters to tracker customers with details about how they could switch to a more expensive mortgage.

The letter said tracker holders should consider moving to a fixed rate as European Central Bank rates were likely to go up.

The bank has twice in the past been accused of using "dirty tricks" to get people to give up their valuable trackers.

Now it has emerged that the bank has had to apologise again to tracker customers for sending a letter with details about how to switch to more expensive fixed rates.

Trackers are so cheap that moving to a variable or fixed rate could mean monthly repayments would be up to €500 more for a typical mortgage.

Head of mortgages at Bank of Ireland John O'Beirne wrote to thousands of tracker customers stating that a letter issued to them in January was sent out in error.

However, the letter clarifying the mix-up was only sent out last week.

Mr O'Beirne stated the bank was required to send the clarifying letter by the Central Bank.

"To avoid the potential for any confusion, I wish to clarify that, as a tracker rate mortgage-holder, this document should not have been issued to you, and is only relevant to standard variable rate mortgage holders," the April 20 letter said.

One customer who received the letters said: "It seems incredible in this day and age that they cannot filter out tracker holders from a mailshot."

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank said it was aware that Bank of Ireland issued a document designed for variable mortgage holders to tracker mortgage holders in January.

The regulator said Bank of Ireland has since written to tracker customers to apologise for sending the document.

"This document should not have been sent to tracker rate mortgage holders," it said.

"The Central Bank requires all firms to act in the best interests of its customers at all times and ensure full transparency for customers."

Bank of Ireland said no customers switched from a tracker rate on foot of the January letter, which was sent in error.

It comes as Bank of Ireland, along with 14 other lenders, is in the process of restoring trackers to thousands of people.

In December, Bank of Ireland admitted it overcharged interest on 3,916 tracker accounts. It also identified 602 accounts where a right to tracker rate was not provided.

In 2015, Bank of Ireland was accused of a bid to trick customers off tracker rates when it sent letters to tracker customers telling them about fixed rates, but making no mention of the cost implications of giving up a tracker. In 2012, the bank also made an attempt to get tracker holders to move to dearer mortgages.

A review in 2010 led to the restoration of 2,100 Bank of Ireland accounts to tracker rates. Central Bank governor Philip Lane revealed recently that Bank of Ireland was previously stopped taking trackers from another 3,000 customers.

Irish Independent

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