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AIB was always going to lose battle – it’s just a pity it waited so long to concede

AIB was always on to a loser trying to defend its actions in denying 6,000 customers tracker mortgages.

The bank tripped itself up and was always going to have to put its hands up eventually because it has already acknowledged that these people were not treated fairly. Now the bank has finally seen sense on these “prevailing rate” tracker cases.

Two weeks ago, this publication heard the bank had an adverse finding against it in one of the “prevailing rate” cases.

Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Ger Deering made a preliminary decision after a complaint to his office put together by consumer campaigner Brendan Burgess on behalf of an AIB customer.

This publication asked the bank if this meant it was now under pressure to concede on the other cases, and was it now going to make provision for same? The bank failed to reply.

But yesterday morning, AIB sprung out a statement saying it was putting aside €300m “following a preliminary decision issued by the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman”.

It added that the “board understands redress may be due to a previously identified group of customers who had an option of a prevailing tracker rate”. Damningly, AIB’s Independent Appeals Panel had rejected the case the ombudsman has now ruled on.

Although the ombudsman has only made a preliminary decision on one case, it looks like the bank is conceding on the almost 6,000 cases.

The fact AIB already gave these people money and acknowledged that it messed up means it was always on a hiding to nothing trying to defend these cases.

Two years ago it gave the “prevailing rate” tracker customers compensation of €1,600 each as they were denied a tracker mortgage.

It admitted they were wrongly denied the option of moving to a tracker contract when their fixed-rate contracts expired from 2008.

Despite this, the bank held out for two years when asked to put them back on the low-priced tracker rates. It argued it abolished trackers when they came off a fixed rate, so they would not have benefited from a tracker rate. It claimed the “prevailing tracker rate” they would have been entitled to at the time was 7.9pc due to high funding costs. It said it was paying them €1,615 each due to a “service failure”.

Now it has done a U-turn, and it looks like the latest batch of cases will take AIB’s total number of tracker cases to 12,180 customers, double its original estimate.

The latest affected AIB customers could be in line for payouts of around €45,000 each, made up of refunds for overpaid interest and compensation. The customers will also be put back on a juicy tracker rate.

It can also expect a hefty fine from the Central Bank.

Thanks goodness for the actions of Ombudsman Ger Deering. The Central Bank, which has been investigating the industry-wide tracker scandal since 2015, had tried its best but was ultimately unable to persuade AIB to back down.

But no marks for the new Irish Banking Culture Board. Given that there are thousands more disputed tracker cases that have yet to be resolved, surely it could now get busy on this issue.

Photo by Michael Longmire on Unsplash

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