Call for banks to review tracker cases that have been rejected by ombudsman
CENTRAL Bank officials are meeting consumer groups to seek their views on how it should shape a probe into banks taking tracker rates off homeowners.
The consumer advocates have called on the regulators to review all of the tracker-loss cases rejected by the Financial Services Ombudsman.
The Central Bank said two weeks ago that it is to probe all banks to see if they wrongly took tracker mortgages from customers.
When customers opted to fix their mortgages they had expected to return to their low-priced trackers, but were denied this option. Up to 10,000 homeowners may have been denied low-cost trackers, costing them thousands of euro every year in overpayments.
The probe comes in the wake of serious mistakes unearthed at Permanent TSB in August which cost 22 people their homes.
Since the industry-wide tracker review was announced, director of consumer protection at the Central Bank Bernard Sheridan has been meeting consumer groups, seeking their views on what areas the investigation should look at.
So far Mr Sheridan has met the founder of Askboutmoney.com Brendan Burgess and financial adviser Padraic Kissane, who advises customers on how to get trackers back. David Hall and solicitor Arthur Mullan of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation are due to meet Mr Sheridan this week.
Also meeting Mr Sheridan was Financial Services Ombudsman Ger Deering.
Mr Burgess called on the Central Bank to carry out a full review of all tracker-mortgage complaints rejected by the ombudsman where homeowners lost their case when they disputed their bank removing their attractive tracker rate.
"They [the Central Bank] wanted to know of any systemic issues which they should look into.
"They wanted to make sure that they had a complete list before they started their review.
"I suggested that they ask the lenders to review all cases where the Ombudsman had rejected the complaint."
Mr Burgess said he also suggested the regulators tell the lenders to review all complaints rejected as out of time by the ombudsman. The ombudsman is not allowed to determine cases that are more than six years old.
A spokeswoman for the regulator said: "The Central Bank is engaging with consumer groups as well as the Financial Services Ombudsman to help inform the scope of our examination into tracker-related issues."
Last week the Central Bank said it is to begin a broad examination of tracker-mortgage issues across all lenders.
It insisted it had taken action against banks in the past that incorrectly took trackers off customers.
The Central Bank added: "We remain concerned that there may be other tracker-related issues which could be impacting on consumers across the system." It said it was engaging closely with a number of lenders to ensure they acted in the best interests of customers who had trackers at some point.
The Oireachtas finance committee had asked the Central Bank to investigate all Irish banks to determine if they have overcharged customers or incorrectly denied them access to a tracker rate.
Last month Permanent TSB said it is to establish a Mortgage Product Review Group to assess its own mortgage product suite and see if there were instances where the contractual terms and conditions attached to mortgage accounts have not been honoured by the bank.