Ulster Bank dragging feet on tracker mortgage review

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

We held a mortgage with First Active and subsequently Ulster Bank from about 2002. We moved away from Ireland but rented the house out and maintained the mortgage but tried to pay it down as quickly as we could.

We received a letter to our house in Australia in maybe mid-2019 to tell us we had been affected but not how. We do not know if it was because we were not offered a tracker rate or if we were overcharged on interest rates or what. We do not know how much we were affected by or over what period of time.

When I called them all they could say is that I would hear from them in due course. We never did. I called again and was told we would hear from them in March 2020. We didn’t and and then Covid happened.

I contacted them a couple of months ago and was told due to Covid things got delayed and would hear from them “soon”.


Do the banks get to continue to drag this out forever, particularly Ulster Bank who are now talking about withdrawing from the Irish market? Is there any deadline on this?

Ms MM, Australia

“Bank poor at communication shock” . . . Or maybe, “bank indifferent to customer service”. They’re headlines that could have run so often at this point that it would just be hackneyed.

In this case, banks deliberately manoeuvred to overcharge customers on the mortgages – either by not offering a tracker rate at all or offering a rate higher than they should have.

They had to be forced by the Central Bank to address it at all, and even then, as the Central Bank itself has said, in some cases have had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the point of resolution.

It’s not just an Ulster Bank issue by any means, though their deliberations over exiting the market make the case more acute, as you say.

In short, is there a deadline? No, though the Central Bank issued its “final report” on the scandal a full 16 months ago in July 2019. The good news is that there is no way the Central Bank will approve any withdrawal by the bank from the Irish market or sale of its assets here without ensuring this matter is concluded.

‘Last batches’

You say the one thing the bank has told you is that this particular group of mortgages – offset mortgages that were legacy First Active products – were “one of the last batches investigated”. That might be correct, or they might just have said that regardless of what your mortgage was.

You were not, as the bank suggested, one of the last to be notified. On its own website, it declares that 13,000 letters were sent out in March 2019. That is pretty much everyone it claims was affected.

Of these, according to the bank, 9,800 people were overcharged and a further 8,500 customers were undercharged (they will not be pursued).

What I would suggest is that you stop phoning and start writing. I know all service providers tell you, as you wait to talk to a human, that they record their calls, but have you ever tried looking for one of these recordings.

‘Impacted customers’

On its website, the bank says: “We have now written to the majority of impacted customers, however we have not been able to confirm contact details for some customers who no longer hold an account with us . . . If you think you may be affected by the review and have not received a letter from us, please contact our helpline.”

I wouldn’t wait. Just in case there is any confusion over your address or that one office in the bank is not talking to another – not that unlikely given the well-reported technology issues at Ulster Bank. The address they give on the site is: Ulster Bank Ireland DAC, Mortgage Interest Rate Review, PO Box 1051, Dublin 2. They specifically ask that you include your mortgage account number(s) in any letter.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be entered into