Debt adviser says AIB customers may have lost trackers
Thousands of AIB customers could have unwittingly lost their tracker rates years ago, a leading debt adviser has claimed, as a lawsuit is brought against the bank over its handling of mortgages.
Ross Maguire of New Beginning said he thinks there are potentially thousands of AIB customers who fixed their mortgages for a defined period and then, when that period expired, were not informed of their right to return to a valuable tracker product.
Tracker mortgages, which generally follow the European Central Bank's benchmark interest rate, proved incredibly valuable to customers in the last five years as the ECB dropped interest rates to record lows.
The gap between the cost of a tracker mortgage and a mortgage on a standard variable interest rate is so dramatic that families will need to earn an extra €12,500 a year to pay the difference, research prepared for this newspaper found.
Mr Maguire's organisation, New Beginning, works with people in debt and specialises in mortgage arrears.
His comments came as one couple are taking a lawsuit, claiming that they should have been offered the opportunity to move to a tracker product by AIB after their fixed-rate term expired, but were not.
"We view this as a test case which could have repercussions for other customers," said Mr Maguire. The case appears similar to claims made against Permanent TSB, which culminated in a July apology by that lender plus compensation for affected customers.
Mr Maguire alleges that AIB omitted to tell lots of eligible customers who were exiting fixed products that they were entitled to move to trackers, starting around 2009.
AIB declined to comment.
However, when questioned earlier this month on the existence of cases at AIB similar to those discovered at PTSB, chief executive Bernard Byrne said: "On the PTSB issue, what I would say on that is the circumstances around it and the way that situation evolved, I think, were unique.
"My commitment is that were we ever to be in that situation, we have a very clear policy that we take it straight on, we deal with it professionally, put the customer in a situation where they are made good for any situation they are in, and then move on. I think that's the way you have to deal with it."