Charlie Weston: ‘This is the biggest consumer scandal the country has ever suffered – and it is far from resolved’

Today’s report states It is going to be an expensive year for our tracker mortgage-­stealing banks. Following the record fine of €21m imposed on Permanent TSB for denying customers the right to a good-value tracker mortgage, another five banks can expect to be fined similar amounts.

Bank of Ireland, AIB and its subsidiary EBS, Ulster Bank and KBC Bank are the lenders in line for hefty penalties.

The total fines bill for the six lenders is likely to top €100m. It follows enforcement actions taken against them by the Central Bank.

Subprime lender Springboard was also fined €4.5m in 2016 for tracker regulatory breaches.

Some 15 lenders were ordered by the Central Bank back in 2015 to trawl through their books to see if they had wrongly taken trackers off their customers.

That came years after the Irish Independent first broke the story of the banks unfairly depriving their customers of trackers – and the failure of banks to warn customers signing up for fixed rates that they could lose their tracker.

So it is now a full 10 years since this publication exposed the scandal that we are finally seeing decent fines being handed out.

It has been a long and tortuous battle to expose the shortcomings of the banks, with many denials and deflections along the way.

Only when the Oireachtas Finance Committee, under the chairmanship of John McGuinness, got stuck into the banks, with tracker case witnesses breaking down, did the Central Bank take the issue seriously.

Even then, it had to be pushed into action by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

The scandal, which directly resulted in more than 100 properties being taken by banks, is set to cost the State’s lenders €1bn in fines and the cost of restoring customers to tracker rates, paying refunds and compensation.

We have now reached the point where 40,000 customers have been acknowledged by the banks and the regulator as having been affected.

It is the largest consumer scandal this country has experienced, with the exception of the bank bailout.

And there are probably another 10,000 cases where the banks are still holding out.

Bank of Ireland is refusing to admit that about 200 of its current and former staff are due tracker redress.

What this means is that we can by no means draw a line under the scandal.

Much though the banks and the regulator would like it to be all over, the tracker scandal has a bit to go yet.

Irish Independent 31/5/2018

 

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