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Saturday 24 June 2017

Data Commissioner probes PTSB over 'missing' tracker letters

Investigate Finian McGrath demanded bank look into case Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Investigate Finian McGrath demanded bank look into case Photo: Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

The Data Protection Commissioner has launched an investigation into Permanent TSB after a couple complained that key documents central to their claim to a tracker mortgage were missing from their personal file.

In the latest twist in the tracker mortgage scandal, the couple - who are seeking to get back on a tracker - requested their personal file from the bank and later discovered that three crucial letters were not included in it.

The couple complained to the Data Protection Commission, which launched an investigation into the case before Christmas, after giving the bank six months to respond.

Since the Data Commissioner's intervention, the bank informed the customers that it had no record of missing documents.

The DPC said it is investigating "several complaints against financial institutions regarding customer access to personal data" but did not identify PTSB. The bank is in the process of compensating mortgage holders who were wrongly denied tracker mortgages.

The scandal emerged in 2014 when a major Central Bank found that almost 1,400 customers were entitled to tracker mortgages but were forced by the bank to pay the more expensive standard variable rates. The difference amounted to potentially €5,000 to €7,000 a year for some customers, a number of whom lost their homes.

The couple believed that they may be entitled to a tracker mortgage and requested their personal records under the Data Protection Act to start the process. Only when the couple retrieved their own records from storage did they realise that three key letters were not included in the file released by the bank.

They say the three letters related to the couple's mortgage interest rate, with one letter offering the couple a tracker mortgage and another informing them that they were on a tracker - albeit briefly.

The couple asked not to be identified. However, Vincent Greene, a retired businessman, who is helping them with their application, said the three letters were of "critical importance" in helping the family establish its entitlement to a tracker mortgage.

He said had the couple not discovered the letters in their own files, they would have struggled to establish they had a case. "The documents clearly supported the family's entitlement to a review of their mortgage, under the terms of the Central Bank's tracker mortgage investigation imposed upon the PTSB," he said.

Vincent Greene has also contacted KMPG, which is providing oversight of the tracker mortgage investigation, putting it on notice of the missing letters, but has yet to receive a reply.

Finian McGrath, Minister of State, asked the Central Bank to investigate the missing documents. In a strongly worded letter, he said it was "in the public interest" to do so, particularly as the Central Bank's tracker mortgage investigation is still under way. The Central Bank has confirmed that it will raise the issue during its "wider engagement" with the PTSB.

The Central Bank has said up to 15,000 tracker mortgages may be affected by mispricing, and some mortgage holders have lost their homes.

A spokesperson for the Ptsb said he was unaware of the DPC investigation but the bank would cooperate, if an investigation was undertaken.

Sunday Independent

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