Tuesday 20 March 2018

Tracker mortgage scandal: Complaint lodged with EU competition body over potential 'cartel'

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes Photo: Tom Burke
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes Photo: Tom Burke
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

MEP Brian Hayes has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission’s DG Competition in order to initiate an investigation into the potential cartel activities of Irish banks.

“The tracker mortgage scandal has rocked Ireland and it is important that we have all competent authorities, in Europe and in Ireland, investigating the shocking actions of banks," he said in a statement.

“DG Competition, under the control of Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, has the power to investigate any breaches of EU competition law, including cartel activity.

“While we still don’t have all the facts in the tracker mortgage scandal, the clear indications are that there was collaboration between the banks in order to intentionally deny customers their correct tracker mortgage rate. If this proves to be the case, this would be, in very simple terms, a cartel.

“Given the work of the Central Bank and the work of legal professionals such as Padraic Kissane, the Commission have a raft of information which give them grounds for an investigation.

“Through its competition powers, the Commission can, in the course of an investigation, conduct dawn raids on premises, examine all records of a business, seal the premises and records during an inspection and question members of staff."

He said the Central Bank cannot investigate the banks from a competition perspective.

“If Irish banks intentionally collaborated to ensure that customers did not get the correct interest rates on their mortgage product, this is effectively an example of controlling rates in an effort to restrict competition in the mortgage market and to share that market," the Fine Gael politician said.

He also said he hoped any potential whistleblowers would contact the authority.

At least 20,000 customers are believed to have been wrongly denied a tracker mortgage in that they paid thousands of euro more in interest than they should have.

The banks involved have this week outlines a time line for paying compensation to the affected customers.

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