Saturday 24 March 2018

Variable-rate mortgage holders may picket Central Bank

Mortgage holder Sara Hogan speaks at a meeting of the SVR Campaign at the Ballsbridge
Hotel in Dublin last night. Photo: Arthur Carron
Mortgage holder Sara Hogan speaks at a meeting of the SVR Campaign at the Ballsbridge Hotel in Dublin last night. Photo: Arthur Carron

Sam Griffin

Variable-rate mortgage holders may picket outside the Central Bank as part of a new campaign aimed at reducing bank interest rates.

The proposal, among others, received broad support at a public meeting which was organised by the new SVR Campaign, led by consumer advocate Brendan Burgess.

The group also discussed running candidates in the next general election, calling for a postponement on the sale of AIB and a potential High Court challenge in relation to lending rates.

Addressing the crowd in Dublin, Fianna Fáil spokesperson Michael McGrath said it was "unacceptable" that Irish banks were offering mortgage rates at twice the Eurozone average.

"The discrimination against existing customers by many of the banks is simply not acceptable," he said.

He welcomed the recent decision by AIB to reduce its rate but said the Central Bank should prohibit banks from discriminating against existing customers.

He added up to 500,000 people in Ireland were affected by variable-rate mortgages and that these people needed to work together to influence government policy.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes told the room it was time the Government played "hard ball" with banks and said if they do not reduce mortgage rates, then the Government should introduce a levy on banks.

"Unless the banks indicate a willingness to reduce variable mortgage rates and bring them into line with comparable rates in Europe, then the Government should introduce a special bank levy which could be used to provide additional relief through the tax system for variable rate mortgage holders," he said.

However the proposal was met with strong opposition from some in attendance with one woman telling the room the banks would just pass on the costs to customers.

There was broad support for legislation to be introduced to deal with the issue as well as one proposal to arrange meetings with the chairs of the various banks.

There was also a strong show of hands when it was suggested the campaign could stage pickets outside the Central Bank and the headquarters of banks.

But the proposal to run candidates in the general election was met with a much weaker response, with Mr Burgess saying the idea might be "revisited" in September.

Mortgage holder with Permanent TSB Sara Hogan said she and other mortgage holders like her "are being absolutely gouged by banks".

She said an approach to her bank last year to negotiate a fairer rate of repayment was rejected.

"We weren't looking for a special deal, we were just looking to be treated like new customers," she said, adding people must show the Government it cannot continue.

Irish Independent

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