Tracker mortgage cases may top 36,000 as Ulster Bank talks continue

Delays in repaying customers will not be tolerated, Central Bank executive says

Central Bank director general of financial conduct Derville Rowland: “This has taken longer than I’d have liked.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Central Bank director general of financial conduct Derville Rowland: “This has taken longer than I’d have liked.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Ulster Bank may have as many as 3,000 as-yet unidentified customers caught up in the State’s tracker-mortgage scandal, undermining the industry’s latest attempt to draw a line under the matter.

This comes as sources say banks have so far admitted that at least 37 borrowers have lost their homes as a result of the tracker controversy. This number has grown from 23 in the past two months, and is expected to rise further. The number of buy-to-let property losses remained at 79, they said.

Two years after the Central Bank ordered banks to find borrowers who were either wrongly denied low-cost mortgages linked to European Central Bank rates or put on the wrong rate entirely, the regulator revealed on Wednesday that since September the number of customers hit by the scandal had surged by 13,600, or two-thirds, to 33,700.

Regulators and politicians have piled pressure on the banks to resolve the matter as public uproar grew in recent months.

KBC Bank Ireland

The increase was driven as AIB revealed a further 5,250 cases, bringing its total to 9,402, and KBC Bank Ireland acknowledged up to 3,545 affected customers. The Belgian-owned lender, which was alone in September in being unable to give any estimates, said in October it could have as many as 1,661 cases.

Bank of Ireland revealed early last month it had identified a further 6,000 accounts, understood to include almost 2,000 of its own staff and bringing its total to 14,500.

“This has taken longer than I’d have liked, but that’s because the banks didn’t front into the problem and were slow to identify cases,” said Derville Rowland, director general of financial conduct at the Central Bank.

“I think we can expect that the vast majority of cases have been identified. All known disputed cases have been identified and been resolved in favour of the customer.”

However, Ulster Bank, part of Royal Bank of Scotland, said it was “working to identify any additional customers” following feedback from the Central Bank on its numbers – even though it is sticking for the moment to a total figure of 3,500 cases outlined during the summer.

It is understood that Ulster Bank’s figure may increase by as much as 2,000 to 3,000, spread across a number of categories of borrower. This could tip the industry number of cases well over the 36,000 level.

Banks ‘on course’

The Central Bank said banks have so far paid €297 million in refunds and compensation to customers and “are on course” to meet commitments they made on payments in October. As of the middle of December, 9,200 of the 13,000 customers identified across the industry in September had received €170 million in refunds and compensation. Most of the remaining should receive money by the end of the year, it said.

Of the additional 13,600 cases acknowledged since September, only 3,700 have received payments – totalling €80 million – and many have not yet received notification that they are due compensation.

“I firmly expect that lenders will ensure all affected customers are paid by June,” said Ms Rowland. “I won’t tolerate banks delaying on this.”

The Central Bank said in its latest report that customers could “cash the cheque” on payments from banks and still appeal the amount.

Where borrowers are dissatisfied by the outcome of appeals through independent panels set up by banks, they can make complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman or take a legal case through the courts.

Clients with trackers targeted for years: Business, page 2