B of I accused of trying to trick tracker clients
BANK OF Ireland has been accused of trying to trick vulnerable customers to move off low-rate tracker mortgages in letters to hundreds of customers late last month.
The letter to tracker-rate customers, disclosed at an Oireachtas Finance Committee hearing, said a survey conducted for the bank found 84 per cent of tracker-rate customers were concerned about increasing mortgage repayments.
A mortgage adviser at the bank offered to provide customers with “more certainty of repayments at an affordable rate giving you the benefits of your current low rate but without the risk of a rate increase over the next few years”.
Labour TD Kevin Humphreys accused the bank of attempting to take advantage of vulnerable customers by trying to trick them off low-rate tracker mortgages.
Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher told the committee hearing that he was unaware of the letter, while retail chief Liam McLoughlin said the letters were sent to several hundred of the bank’s 160,000 mortgage holders.
The bank later clarified this to say about 220 customers received the letter and they were sent to “a random selection” of tracker customers, “not simply tracker customers in arrears”.
The bank said that if customers opted to move off tracker rates, it was clearly outlined they could move back to the tracker rate after three or five years on a fixed rate.
The Central Bank has warned lenders they must give borrowers clear written warnings that they will lose their tracker rates if they switch to other mortgage types.
Some 62 per cent of the bank’s €28 billion Irish residential mortgage book is on tracker rates.
There were heated exchanges at the Oireachtas finance committee as Mr Boucher would not answer repeated questions, including how much debt the bank had written off on unsustainable mortgages.
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly accused Mr Boucher of treating the committee with contempt by not answering questions. Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell said Mr Boucher’s refusal to answer questions showed a “lack of moral compass” and that “nothing had changed”.
Chairman Labour TD Ciarán Lynch said Mr Boucher was being “minimalist” in his answers.