Business Irish

Sunday 20 October 2019

Banks say they will not contest tracker complaints based on time-limit rule

Ombudsman Ger Deering. Picture: Patrick Browne
Ombudsman Ger Deering. Picture: Patrick Browne
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

TWO leading banks said they will not challenge probes by the ombudsman into how they handled tracker complaints.

The clarification comes after a number of banks were accused of arguing that mortgage holders impacted by the tracker scandal who complained to the Financial Services Ombudsman were out of time to take a case.

Now both Bank of Ireland and KBC Bank have said they will not contest cases based on the time-limit rule.

Financial Services Ombudsman Ger Deering had said some banks were contesting his office’s attempts to investigate complaints, claiming they fall outside a legal six-year time limit.

Mr Deering said he was dealing with more than 1,100 complaints related to tracker mortgages.

In a letter sent to Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath, the ombudsman said some banks, which he did not name, were using the time-limit argument to stop his office probe tracker complaints.

Mr Deering stated in his letter that some banks were “rigorously challenging the jurisdiction of this office to deal with complaints where there is a question in relation to whether the complaint was made outside the time limit”.

This was despite Mr Deering holding off on looking at tracker complaints during the four years of the Central Bank review of tracker cases to allow that process to conclude.

Many tracker cases go back at least a decade.

KBC Bank issued a statement yesterday clarifying its position.

“In the interest of our customers, KBC confirms that it will not challenge time limitations in respect to tracker mortgage complaints with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman [FSPO] and have advised the FSPO of this.”

Last week KBC was less specific when it was asked if it was challenging the ombudsman office over tracker cases.

The Belgian-owned bank had said last week it was “determined to secure the best outcomes for all customers impacted by the tracker examination”.

Yesterday it said it would not challenge tracker cases on the basis that go back more than six years and said it work openly and constructively with the ombudsman.

Bank of Ireland said it had now “taken on board feedback” from the ombudsman on the issue.

“We confirmed to the ombudsman last week that we are happy that they don’t apply a time limit to any tracker mortgage related complaints.”

The bank insisted it had not relied on a simple assessment of time limits in relation to tracker related complaints referred to the Mr Deering’s office.

Every tracker complaint goes through a very thorough process, regardless of the date the complaint was made, it said.

The legislation setting out how the ombudsman must operate states that the office can only deal with a complaint that is made six years from the date of the conduct giving rise to the complaint.

Across all the landers some 40,100 borrowers have been identified as losing out from moves by banks to deny them a tracker after the Central Bank told lenders in 2015 to review tracker mortgage books.

Homeowners not happy with how their cases were handled by their bank are entitled to appeal the decision to the ombudsman.

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