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KBC Bank admits it used time limit clause in 27 tracker complaints to Ombudsman

A number of banks, including KBC, reversed their decision to challenge the investigation of these complaints after a public rebuke by the ombudsman.

Image: RollingNews.ie

KBC BANK IRELAND has admitted it had raised time limitations in respect of 27 customer complaints about tracker mortgages to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman.

Last month ombudsman Ger Deering revealed a number of lenders were arguing that his office should not investigate certain complaints about tracker mortgages because the consumers had waited too long to make them.

The Central Bank examination of tracker mortgages found more than 40,000 customers were impacted by the overcharging scandal.

Under the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017, a complaint must be made within six years of the conduct that gave rise to the complaint. The legislation also states that the complaint must be within three years from the date on which the customer became aware of the conduct. 

Deering said it was a “sad irony” that banks were using this three-year limit, which had been inserted into the legislation to assist customers who may fall outside the six-year limit. He said the challenges could mean serious delays in investigating complaints as his office would first have to do a time limit assessment on each. 

In correspondence sent to the Oireachtas Finance Committee, KBC Bank confirmed it raised the time limitation in 27 cases. 

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said this is proof that the culture in the bank has not changed, “nor has its attitude to customers”. 

After the ombudsman’s public rebuke, several banks, including KBC, stated they would no longer challenge the investigation of complaints under the time limit clause. 

Doherty said the decision was “due to the political and media pressure they have faced”. 

“This only demonstrates that their repeated apologies in respect of the tracker mortgage was based more upon their public image than any commitment to their customers,” he said.

Doherty said this section of the legislation was never intended to be used as a loophole. 

The legislation was passed to ensure that many of those affected were able to have their cases heard by the ombudsman, and many of them have.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, KBC Bank said the 27 cases were customers it had deemed not impacted by overcharging in its tracker mortgage examination. The bank said it had “consulted the FSPO and communicated that, in its view, the cases appeared to be outside the specific time limitations” set out in the legislation.

KBC said it had also acknowledged in its communications that it remained at the discretion of the ombudsman’s office to accept complaints, including those that fall outside those time limitations. 

The decision to raise the timeframe in these 27 cases was made before Deering’s comments in the media. KBC said it later communicated with the ombudsman’s office to state it would no longer be raising the application of time limits. 

“KBC Bank confirmed to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman that, in the interest of customers, the bank will not challenge time limitations in respect of tracker mortgage complaints.”

Last month TheJournal.ie asked all of the main banks whether they had attempted to use these limitations to block the investigation of tracker mortgage complaints.

Bank of Ireland said it referred a “small number of non-impacted customer cases” for consideration in relation to timeframe. However it said it had taken on board feedback from Deering and informed his office the bank was “happy that they don’t apply a time limit to any tracker mortgage related complaints”.

AIB said it would not be seeking the application of time restrictions. Ulster Bank said it had never challenged the jurisdiction of the ombudsman’s office in relation to time limits on tracker mortgage complaints. Permanent TSB also said it had not raised the time limit in respect of any complaints to the ombudsman.

Doherty said today that the Finance Committee has received correspondence from a number of banks and is awaiting similar information from Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB. The committee is expected to meet with bank executives about the issue when the Dáil resumes.

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