Thursday 18 October 2018

Taoiseach attacks banks over their handling of tracker scandal

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Charlie Weston and Ralph Riegel

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has attacked banks for taking so long to return homeowners to the good-value tracker mortgages that they took from them.

He said they were too slow paying back money overcharged, plus compensation.

His comments in Cork came as it emerged that 12,500 account holders have now been identified by lenders where trackers have to be restored and refunds paid.

Minutes of the Central Bank Commission, or its board, reveal that "about 12,500 customers in total having been identified by lenders as being impacted as at end June 2017, of which 92pc of accounts requiring rate rectification have had their rate rectified".

The Central Bank is due to issue an update on Tuesday on all aspects of the tracker probe it ordered 15 lenders to carry out at the end of 2015. However, financial adviser Padraic Kissane estimates that up to 30,000 mortgage holders could have been wrongly denied a tracker.

Mr Varadkar hit out at the manner in which banks had treated some customers.

His comments came after tracker mortgage holders who had been wrongly taken off the special lending rate addressed the Oireachtas, giving harrowing details of how the experience affected their physical and mental health.

Homeowner Thomas Ryan, from Co Wexford, said he suffered a stroke and his wife had a nervous breakdown.

Asked if banks could be pushed into speeding up rectifying the situation, the Taoiseach said: "I am not sure if we have any plans to set a date or deadline or whether we can even do that within the powers that we have as a Government.

"But as far as I am concerned the date should be yesterday. Any bank, whether it is partly owned by the State or not, (that) took people off tracker mortgages incorrectly should put that right and should have put that right yesterday.

"They should repay what is owed, offer an apology and pay compensation.

"I am somebody that has a tracker mortgage and in many ways it has been a God-send. It has meant that my mortgage has been very affordable in years gone by. I can only imagine what it would have been if it had been 4pc or 5pc or 6pc."

Mr Varadkar said some people had suffered from the banks' wrongful actions.

"So as far as I am concerned the deadline (for repayment) is yesterday."

He added: "There are many people and many families driven to distraction and endured enormous mental health traumas amid fears of what will happen to their families."

Irish Independent

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