Taoiseach: Banks have dragged their heels too long over tracker scandal

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the banks could sort out the tracker scandal in months.

After suggesting tax hikes or new laws and sanctions could be used to get the lenders to pay back and compensate customers, the Taoiseach said these measures would take too long.

"The banks have it in their power to sort this out within a matter of months," he said.

"Legislation, new sanctions, would take longer. I really think the banks have prevaricated and dragged their heels for too long now."

On his way into the European Council summit in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said: "They really need to get on with it and sort it out."

Earlier the Governor of the Central Bank revealed that homeowners and investors had lost more than 100 properties through the mortgage tracker scandal.

Philip Lane told the Oireachtas Finance Committee he suspected that number would increase as mortgage lenders continued their analyses of affected customers.

He also said that by the end of September, €120m had been paid out in redress and compensation.

This was on top of €36.8m paid out by Permanent TSB and €6.2m by Springboard Mortgages Limited pursuant to their Mortgage Redress programme, he said.

Mr Lane told the committee that around 13,000 affected accounts were identified by lenders after the Central Bank ordered them to conduct a review of their mortgage loan books.

Approximately 60% of these cases arose as a result of customers not receiving a tracker product, Mr Lane said.

The remaining 40% related to customers not receiving the correct tracker margin.

He claimed that as of the end of September, lenders had rectified the interest rates applied to approximately 7,700 affected accounts.

"This represents 98% of customers identified by lenders as requiring rate rectification," he added.

Mr Lane was before the committee to answer questions about the mortgage tracker controversy.

His appearance comes a day after the Committee's chairman, John McGuinness, accused the Central Bank of not doing enough to "bring banks to heel" over the scandal.

John McGuinness.

The Central Bank Governor insisted the probe was "the largest, most complex and significant conduct review" undertaken by the bank to date.

"We recognise the hurt and damage the actions of lenders have caused for many borrowers," he said.

"This is evident in the calls we receive to our helpline and the powerful testimony from the individual borrowers that appeared before this Committee last week.

"We are pushing the limits of our powers to ensure affected customers are remedied appropriately," he insisted.

But he raised concern that two lenders may have failed to identify populations of impacted customers or failed to recognise that certain groups of their customers had been affected by their failures.

"We are of the view that some of these customers have in fact been affected and, accordingly, are entitled to redress and compensation.

"We have challenged the two lenders on these issues and they will report back to us by end of October," Mr Lane added.

Philip Lane.

He accused "certain lenders" of falling "materially short" of the Bank's expectations in relation to the issue of redress and compensation.

He said they had failed to offer compensation "for certain impacted cohorts of customers or offered unacceptably low offers of compensation".

The Central Bank is liaising with the Garda, Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) as part of the examination of the controversy.


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