Saturday 19 October 2019

Body set up to 'cleanse banking' under fire

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Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

THE new Banking Culture Board has been accused of coming down on the side of the banks that tried to time limit customer complaints over on tracker mortgages.

The banks subsequently made a U-turn and decided to stop challenging the complaints made to the financial services ombudsman through the time-limit argument.

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The new Banking Culture Board then issued a statement welcoming banks' decision.

The board is headed up by former High Court and Appeals Court judge Mr Justice Hedigan. The retired judge was told the board had in effect sided with the banks on the issue by offering public support.

Banks had acted illegally in trying to use time limits in the first place, Mr Justice Hedigan was told at the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

KBC Bank tried to get out of 27 complaints using the time-limit rule, while Bank of Ireland tried to get 50 complaints dropped.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the banks had acted outside the law in claiming there was an issue around time limits.

Up to 2017, customers could only make a complaint within six years of the alleged misconduct taking place.

But legislation introduced by Mr Doherty means customers can now make a complaint within three years of their becoming aware of alleged misconduct.

Mr Justice Hedigan told the committee he emailed the CEOs of the five main banks when he heard they were trying to use the time-limit arguments.

He was pleased all the banks later issued statements saying they had decided to no longer use the time-limit arguments.

But Mr Doherty told the retired judge that by issuing a statement: "The board came down on the side of the banks. You did not call out the culture of the banks."

He added: "The banks were completely in the wrong here. As far as consumer-centred behaviour and customer- focused approaches, they were completely in the wrong.

"You need to be willing to call out the banks, regardless of who is on the Banking Culture Board, and no matter who is funding you."

The board is funded by the banks, and has five bankers on its board.

Mr Justice Hedigan rejected the claim that his board had sided with the banks.

He said: "We don't come down on anyone's side, other than the customer. I would not agree with you that we came down on the side of the banks."

He said the legislation meant the ombudsman could not investigate a complaint unless the banks agreed it was within the time-frame for making it.

Irish Independent

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