Another 4,000 victims of tracker scam have ‘still to be identified’

AN INTERNATIONAL credit ratings agency has questioned Central Bank claims that most of the tracker overcharging cases have been identified.

The Central Bank said in December that 33,700 tracker overpayment cases have emerged, and this was the majority of cases.

But ratings agency DBRS said there was uncertainty about the total number of cases, and suggested there could be a lot more tracker cases.

Last month, the Central Bank said “the vast majority of customers have been identified”.

It made the comments after the total number of cases shot up from around 20,000, in the previous September, to 33,700.

But analysts at DBRS said: “However, a contrary picture is painted judging by the rate of increase in affected accounts between September and December 2017, leading to uncertainty about the total exposure.”

The Central Bank has warned that more cases are likely to emerge as banks continue to examine their mortgage books for cases of overcharging. But it expects only small numbers to be owned up to by banks. DBRS appears to be sceptical about this, as the banks owned up to an additional 13,600 cases since the last update for those affected was issued by the Central Bank in September, under pressure from regulators.

The total number who lost homes has risen from 23 to 37, with another 79 buy-to-lets sold as a direct result of the tracker overcharging.

AIB had discovered an additional 4,900 cases, with most of these mortgage holders who were never on a tracker rate, but should have been.

Bank of Ireland has already said it has an additional 6,000 cases, while KBC Bank has admitted to an extra 2,500 cases.

Tracker mortgage expert Padraic Kissane, who has correctly anticipated the growth in the number of cases up to now, said he expected another 4,000 to emerge.

These are largely made up of Ulster Bank customers, for those who took out an original mortgage with First Active before it was taken over by Ulster.

This could see Ulster Bank’s total number of tracker cases jumping to 6,500. The bank has admitted there are likely to be more cases.

Mr Kissane said Ulster Bank has not restored any of its tracker customers who drew down a mortgage through First Active.

He said people were sent “tracker removal letters” when they opted to fix for a period, but it was not made clear that they were permanently signing off a tracker rate.

Other cases were set to crop up at EBS, which is owned by AIB, KBC and at Permanent TSB, Mr Kissane said.

New cases from Ulster/First Active, EBS, Permanent TSB and KBC would bring the total number to close to 40,000.

There would be even more tracker cases if AIB admits that returning customers to an interest rate of 3.67pc is not a true tracker rate, he said.

It comes as the head of the Oireachtas Finance Committee said arrests of bankers are needed to stop the abuse of customers seen in the tracker scam.

Committee chairman John McGuinness called for the jailing of errant bankers. The committee has been holding hearings into the tracker scandal.

Mr McGuinness said the mistreatment of tracker mortgage customers would continue until a banker was arrested and faced consequences.

He said that “until the day that a garda arrests a banker, this carry-on from the banks will continue ruining lives”.

“From 2009, when the first voices were being raised, to 2014 in the Dáil, when we were told by the banks that there was nothing to see here, move along, the banks knew there was something wrong, something rotten, but they continued to cover it up.”

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