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'They've gone without food, without heat in their home': Ulster Bank execs grilled over tracker scandal

The bank’s CEO revealed almost 3,500 customers were overcharged.

Ulster Bank CEO Gerry Mallon said he can understand the frustration felt by customers who have been overcharged and who are still waiting to get their money back.
Ulster Bank CEO Gerry Mallon said he can understand the frustration felt by customers who have been overcharged and who are still waiting to get their money back.

ULSTER BANK HAS identified almost 3,500 customers who were affected by the tracker mortgage scandal, its CEO revealed today.

The scandal saw thousands of customers in a number of financial institutions in Ireland charged higher rates of interest than they should have been.

Appearing before the Oireachtas Finance Committee today, senior executives from the bank were questioned by members about progress made in identifying affected customers and compensating them.

The Central Bank had given a deadline of the end of September for institutions to identify all affected customers and Ulster Bank CEO Gerry Mallon today revealed the number currently stands at just under 3,500 people.

All of these customers have been returned to the correct rate, except for 57 who would end up being charged more than they currently pay if they were moved.

Compensation

Mallon also told the committee that fewer than 40 of these affected customers have received compensation.

It is expected some customers will receive in excess of €100,000 in compensation.

“The process will take a number of months and will run well into 2018 before all cases are addressed,” he said.

“Do you really think that’s good enough?” Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath asked him.

He pointed out that “if the shoe was on the other foot” and customers owed the bank money, it would be actively pursuing them for it.

Mallon said he wished to reiterate previous apologies on behalf the bank and told the committee he could understand the frustration felt by customers. However, he described the process as “complex” and said Ulster Bank has a team of more than 200 people working on its redress programme.

He denied suggestions from a number of committee members that his staff were “dragging their feet”. He claimed there was no incentive for the bank to drag out the process as that would result in higher costs, particularly in relation to outside consultants it is using.

‘It’s clearly our fault’

At a previous committee hearing, the CEO had said 14 customers had lost their homes as a direct result of the bank’s error. Today he said this number is now lower than first estimated but he still expects it to be in the teens by the time the whole process is complete.

“It’s very difficult and I don’t think there’s anything we can to put it right,” he said.

He added that the bank is now in dialogue with these customers. An initial €50,000 has been paid to each customer who lost their home as a direct result of the bank’s actions.

What is clearly our fault is clearly our fault.

The senior bank executives were challenged by committee chair John McGuinness, who described its helpline as “a farce”. He claimed the helpline does not give customers any concept of a timeframe or how much compensation they might receive and that it only “adds to the frustration and anger”.

john mcg

He also shared the story of one affected family who have two children with Asperger syndrome:

They’ve gone to credit unions and banks to support the care of those two children. They’ve gone without food, without heat in their home, without holidays. The children of that family are suffering to this day.

McGuinness said the family estimate they are owed in the region of €30,000.

“I find it unacceptable in any society that the most vulnerable in society would be treated the way this family has been treated,” he told the executives.

Mallon described this case as “completely appalling and not at all unique”.

“It pains us to see customers in that kind of situation as a direct consequence of the actions of the bank,” he said, adding: “We will make it right”.

If you have been affected by the tracker mortgage scandal, we want to hear your story. Get in touch by sending a message to trackermortgage@thejournal.ie.

Read: Over 100 PTSB customers still on the wrong tracker mortgage rate despite bank identifying error>

Read: ‘Someone knew what they were doing’: Financial watchdog says tracker mortgage scandal is unacceptable>

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