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Ulster Bank tops ombudsman’s list of shame


Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering. Picture: Patrick Browne

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering. Picture: Patrick Browne

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering. Picture: Patrick Browne

ULSTER Bank has topped the list of shame for having the most complaints upheld against it by the ombudsman.

The latest hit to the bank’s reputation comes a week after it was fined a record €38m for denying its customers their entitlement to good value tracker mortgages.

And it is just weeks after its owner, NatWest, said it was pulling the bank out of the Republic.

Now Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering has revealed that Ulster Bank had 19 complaints upheld against it by his office last year.

Mr Deering said 13 were partially upheld, four substantially, and two were completely upheld.

It is the second year in a row that the bank had had more complaints upheld against it by the ombudsman’s office than any other financial institution here.

The bank also has a bad record when it comes to fines from the Central Bank.

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Last May it was hit with a €4.6m fine for failing to have the correct checks in place to ensure it was reporting accurate mortgage arrears figures to regulators.

In 2016, it was fined €3.3m for technical breaches of anti-money-laundering and terrorist-financing regulations.

Two years before that it was hit with a then-record €3.5m fine for a serious IT systems failure in 2012.

Permanent TSB was the next institution in the “list of shame” for complaints upheld by the ombudsman.

It had 18 complaints upheld against it, with 13 partially upheld.

Bank of Ireland came next with 12 complaints upheld against it last year.

Others on the list are Irish Life Assurance, AIB, Allianz Insurance, Aviva and FBD.

In its ‘Overview of Complaints for 2020’, detailing the activities of the office, Mr Deering said 5,395 complaints were received last year.

Some 6,193 complaints were closed off.

More than half of the complaints received last year related to banking products, with mortgage complaints accounting for 1,389 complaints last year.

A third of complaints received related to insurance products.

In 600 of the complaints received, the complainant identified Covid-19 as an element of their complaint.

A total of 1,897 of those who complained received compensation and/or redress or a settlement.

Some €6.34m was paid out on these.

But Mr Deering said this is only part of the story as there are many consumers who do not make a complaint to his office but have benefited from the intervention or work of his office.

These are understood to relate to tracker mortgages.

“This was particularly evident, in 2020, when more than 7,000 consumers received rectification or compensation on foot of a number of decisions I issued.

“This was because several financial service providers applied the direction given in my decisions to other customers with similar circumstances. This is a practice I particularly welcome. It has been publicly recorded that the value of this redress to such other customers, in such circumstances, exceeded €300m,” he said.

Among the pay-outs last year were an additional €15,000 to a couple after their house was destroyed by fire. The €15,000 was for additional unanticipated costs the couple incurred.

Mr Deering’s office also secured agreement to pay a claim arising from a critical illness policy amounting to €85,000.

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