15,000 tracker mortgage customers may have been overcharged

Governor Philip Lane denies Central Bank is being bullied by lenders

Central Bank Governor Philip Lane conceded as many as 15,000 customers may have been affected by the tracker scandal. Photograph: Eric Luke

Central Bank Governor Philip Lane conceded as many as 15,000 customers may have been affected by the tracker scandal. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Central Bank Governor Philip Lane has denied the financial regulator is afraid of financial lenders after earlier accepting he didn’t know exactly how many mortgage account customers may have been wrongly denied a tracker rate.

Under intense questioning from TDs and Senators at the Oireachtas finance committee on Tuesday, Mr Lane disagreed that the Central Bank was being bullied by the banks he is charged with regulating. The accusation came after Mr Lane said there may be many more mortgage account customers who were refused a tracker rate than previously stated.

His comments came after the Central Bank issued new figures on Monday indicating that 8,200 account holders had been identified as having been refused a tracker rate in accordance with their contract.

Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath questioned the Central Bank’s numbers, claiming that by his calculations as many as 15,000 mortgage account holders may have been overcharged due to lenders’ refusals to give them a tracker interest rate. Committee members expressed surprise when Mr Lane was not immediately able to provide a complete list of affected accounts.

“You should have had those figures ready for the committee. You knew what was coming on here, said committee chairman John McGuinness.

“It is shocking and shameful that the Central Bank can’t force them [the banks] to admit the real figures,” he added.

The session was suspended briefly after committee members asked the Central Bank to come up with a fuller list of affected accounts. Following its resumption, Mr Lane acknowledged that the numbers impacted by the crisis was likely to be close to 15,000.

Complete failure

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said the Central Bank had shown an “absolute complete failure of its duties on consumer protection”.

“It was the bankers who robbed them but the Central Bank owes them an apology for not intervening,” he said.

Earlier in the meeting Mr Lane refused to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing on the part of the regulator for not intervening on behalf of account holders. He said he expected the Central Bank’s ongoing review into tracker mortgages involving 15 lenders, to conclude by mid-2017.

“We are engaging with the banks to try and move this as quickly as we can but we also have to make sure it is comprehensive,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting ended, Mr Doherty said the regulator was out of its of depth in tackling the scandal.

“Listening to the Central Bank today it is clear that even at this very late stage they are still struggling to understand the scale and gravity of this crisis. In short they are out of their depth and victims of the banks’ theft will not be encouraged by what they have heard,” he said.