Sunday 19 November 2017

Tracker issue raised by mortgage holders as far back as 2008 - but no action for years

It took another seven years before the Central Bank acted (Stock picture)
It took another seven years before the Central Bank acted (Stock picture)

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Mortgage holders first raised issues about being denied trackers nine years ago with the State office that deals with consumer complaints.

Ombudsman for Financial Services Ger Deering told TDs and senators his office first got complaints about trackers in 2008.

But it took another seven years before the Central Bank acted on the wholescale taking of trackers off homeowners.

Mr Deering told the Oireachtas Finance Committee first complaints arrived in 2008.

“In 2009, 2010 and 2011 the Financial Services Ombudsman upheld a number of complaints and directed financial institutions to put the complainants back on tracker mortgages.”

Permanent TSB had appealed findings made by the Ombudsman in tracker cases to the courts.

But it withdrew the appeals when the Central Bank initiated an enforcement probe against Permanent TSB.

The Central Bank then ordered an industry-wide probe into the loss of trackers at the end of 2015.

Central Bank regulators have been heavily criticised for taking so long to address the taking of trackers from homeowners.

Read more: Banks are losing millions of euro as home owners go bankrupt

So far some 8,200 mortgage holders who lost trackers through the actions of their lender have been identified by the banks, the Central Bank said recently.

But there are indications that this number is expected to rise well above 10,000 by the time the bank-wide probe ordered by regulators is complete in the summer.

At least 100 mortgage holders lost their homes because they were denied a cheap tracker rate.

Some 15 lenders have been ordered to review their mortgage books.

People having trackers restored are being put back on the lower rate, getting an interest refund and getting compensation.

Tracker rates are a fraction of what is charged on variable rates, with some people paying €500 less a month on a tracker than on a variable.

Ombudsman Mr Deering also told the politicians that one bank tried to exclude customers who lost a tracker from the Central Bank investigation because they had filed a complaint with his office.

“On becoming aware of this I wrote to the CEOs of all the banks informing them that I was firmly of the view, a view which is shared by the Central Bank, that no mortgage holder who has made a complaint to the FSO [Financial Services Ombudsman] should be treated any differently, with regard to the examination, by virtue of the fact of having made such a complaint, irrespective of the outcome,” he said.

He added that he secured confirmation from each bank that no mortgage account holder, coming within the scope of that Central Bank probe, would be treated any differently by that bank, because a complaint.

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