Wednesday 21 February 2018

Revealed: AIB customers back on trackers but at higher rates of interest

AIB is writing to some 3,000 customers telling them that they are being restored to tracker rates (Stock picture)
AIB is writing to some 3,000 customers telling them that they are being restored to tracker rates (Stock picture)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The review into the loss of trackers by AIB customers has been questioned.

The credibility of the probe was queried after it emerged some customers are being restored to trackers at an interest rate of 3.7pc. This is higher than AIB's variable rate.

It comes as a shortage of properties to buy saw prices rise again last month.

AIB is writing to some 3,000 customers telling them that they are being restored to tracker rates which they were wrongly denied by the bank.

But three contributors to the site said they received letters offering them tracker rates of 3.67pc.

AIB's variable rate is just 3.4pc.

The bank had no comment when asked why it was restoring them to rates higher than variable rates.

Most tracker rates in the market are set at 1pc over the European Central Bank rate. The ECB rate is 0pc.

Founder of Brendan Burgess called on AIB to explain how it arrived at the 3.67pc figure, and questioned if the Central Bank had approved this.

He said there would be no need for the €190m AIB has set aside for the tracker probe if affected customers are to be offered such high tracker rates.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said it could not comment on specific cases or on the potential outcomes for individual consumers of the examination.

It has ordered an industry-wide probe of the taking of trackers from people who were entitled to them after coming off a fixed rate.

Meanwhile, property prices were up 7pc in the year to June, despite falling slightly in the month, Central Statistics Office figures show.

The CSO figures show prices fell back by 0.1pc in the month, but were still higher than the same month last year.

It was the weakest annual rise in prices so far this year.

Dublin prices were down 0.7pc in June, but are up 4.5pc compared with the same month last year.

Outside the capital, property prices rose by 0.5pc in June and are now 8.6pc higher than June last year.

Economist with Merrion Stockbrokers Alan McQuaid said a lack of supply was pushing up prices.

"Until this issue is addressed, prices in the capital and its outskirts will likely remain elevated. Whether the Government's new housing plan is the answer remains to be seen, but in theory at least it should help to address the supply issue," he said.

Goodbody Stockbrokers economist Dermot O'Leary said the hangover associated with the Central Bank mortgage rules was wearing off and supply shortages were coming to the fore.

"But the rules appear to have put a cap on excessive price growth," he said.

From September the CSO is to move to capturing property prices based on houses and apartments bought with cash, as well as those bought with a mortgage.

At the moment its price index figures exclude cash sales, which account for 60pc of property transactions. This prompted critics to dismiss the CSO property price index as meaningless.

Mr McQuaid said the exclusion of cash sales meant that the housing market is probably stronger than the CSO numbers suggest.

Property prices are still more than a third lower than their peak in early 2007, before the banking crisis.

Meanwhile, the Central Bank said mortgage lending increased by €105m in June, the largest increase in lending since February 2010.

In annual terms, however, lending for house purchases fell by 2pc.

The figures come after the International Monetary Fund urged the Central Bank to retain its mortgage lending restrictions.

Irish Independent

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