Tuesday 16 October 2018

Central Bank is not protecting consumers and needs to change

CENTRAL BANK IS DOING GREAT: Well, their pals in the Netherlands would say that, wouldn't they?
CENTRAL BANK IS DOING GREAT: Well, their pals in the Netherlands would say that, wouldn't they?
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Remember in school when the teacher would occasionally tell you to get the boy or girl next to you to correct your homework as the teacher gave out the correct answers?

The temptation to be generous to the person whose homework you were correcting was strong, especially if you liked your fellow pupil.

That scenario sprung to mind when the Central Bank asked its Dutch equivalent, the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets, to review its consumer protection function.

The results of the peer review were released last week - and the upshot is that the regulators in the Central Bank in Dublin's Dame Street were praised for their efforts.

Some tweaks were recommended, but these were minor and operational for the most part.

But this columnist would beg to differ with the conclusions of the peer review.

The whole trust of the Central Bank's general policy since the financial collapse has been to put banks first and consumer issues very much in a secondary position.

If anyone thinks the Central Bank is doing a good job, they should consider some of the following.

Mortgage arrears continue to be a stain on the system. Just 28.1pc of residential mortgage accounts that are more than 90 days in arrears have been restructured, according to the Central Bank's own figures.

No lender has been sanctioned by the Central Bank for breaching its code of conduct on mortgage arrears.

The Central Bank has no record of which vulture funds bought which mortgages, or how many were sold.

Motor insurance premiums are rising at rate of 16pc on an annual basis. Despite the collapse of Quinn Insurance, there are claims that motor insurers have again failed to put enough funds aside to cover claims.

The Central Bank has hinted that it lacks sufficient supervisory expertise to police the sector, and indicated it is worried about the financial health of at least three insurers.

There are also issues around discriminatory variable mortgage rates being charged by banks, and mortgage holders having tracker rates taken off them. We could go on.

But it is not just this columnist who questions the role of the Central Bank in protecting consumers.

In a detailed report last year, the Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) concluded that consumers were robbed of many of their rights and protections across the financial sector during the boom because of "soft-touch" regulation, singling out the Central Bank, among others.

Flac said regulations governing consumer protection remain deeply flawed.

No doubt another letter is now on the way from the Central Bank castigating me for "misleading" readers.

That happens when you have the temerity to criticise the regulators.

Twitter: @CWeston_Indo

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