KBC Bank cited controversial time limit rules when challenging 27 complaints to the financial services ombudsman related to tracker mortgage issues, The Irish Times has learned.
The challenging of complaints was singled out by Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering last month. Mr Deering told the Oireachtas finance committee that some banks were "rigorously challenging the jurisdiction of this office to deal with complaints where there is a question in relation to whether the complaint was made outside the time limit".
At the time, KBC issued a statement saying that it “will not challenge time limitations in respect to tracker mortgage complaints with the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman and have advised the FSPO [ombudsman] of this”.
It never directly answered media queries about whether it had made such challenges in the past.
However, in a letter to the Oireachtas finance committee, which has been seen by The Irish Times, chief executive Peter Roebben confirmed that "in 27 cases, KBC Bank Ireland advised the FSPO that, in the bank's view, they appeared to be outside the specific time limitations" in legislation.
In correspondence to the finance committee, Bank of Ireland said that following a review process, it had "in approximately 50 cases the Bank has confirmed to the FSPO that the complaint does not fall within the time limits".
Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty criticised the lenders for challenging the applications.
“They have now confirmed they will not be contesting any further claims due to the political and media pressure they faced,” he said. “This only demonstrates that their repeated apologies in respect of the tracker mortgage scandal was based more upon their public image than any commitment to their customers.”
The issue emerged out of legislative changes made in 2017. These provide that, in addition to a six-year period from the date of conduct taking place, customers can also make a complaint within three years of them becoming aware of alleged misconduct.
Customers who had contacted their banks many years ago and claimed they should be on a tracker rate faced the prospect of having later complaints to the ombudsman challenged on the basis that they had been aware then of the issue.
Mr Deering said last month that it was a “sad irony” that some lenders were using this clause to challenge complaints. Under the legislation, the ombudsman may allow longer periods when “it would be just and equitable, in all the circumstances” to extend the period.
Both Bank of Ireland and KBC have now committed to not challenging time limitations, and advised the ombudsman of this.
In a statement to The Irish Times, Bank of Ireland said every tracker complaint goes through a thorough process, regardless of the date the complaint was made. It said it only challenged cases based on time limits after this process, and when the ombudsman asked if the complaint was within the time limits set out in legislation.
KBC said it acknowledged that it was in the ombudsman’s discretion to accept complaints that fall outside time limitations.
Permanent TSB said it had challenged time limits on one occasion, before dropping the case. Ulster Bank, Start Mortgages and IBRC, said they had not challenged any cases. AIB and Danske Bank did not specify whether they had challenged any cases, but both said they respected the sole jurisdiction of the ombudsman in the area.