First fine of €4.5m for overcharging tracker mortgage customers

The Central Bank has fined Springboard Mortgages — a unit of Permanent TSB Group — €4.5m for overcharging customers for their tracker mortgages.

The sanction involves 220 mortgage accounts and has been imposed for breaches under the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Codes.

The move is the first such sanction imposed on any lender following the start of the Central Bank probe into tracker rates and is something of a declaration of intent by the regulator because the fine is relatively large in terms of the number of accounts involved.

It suggests that when the Central Bank completes its investigation that the separate fine for Permanent TSB, which involves 1,152 customers, and fines for other banks which are found to have breached the codes, will be substantial.

The probe into the trackers will extend into next year. The full amounts to be paid by the lenders under restitution schemes to wronged customers will not be known for some time.

Some other banks involved in the Central Bank investigation have put aside tens of millions of euros to cover potential fines and any restitution costs.

Other lenders involved in the Central Bank investigation include AIB, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, and KBC Bank.

In the Springboard case, the Central Bank said the lender was involved in three suspected contraventions of its old consumer code and two suspected contraventions of its most recent code, updated four years ago.

That update meant the regulator was given greater powers to increase fines. It said Springboard admitted breaking the consumer codes and had agreed to the €4.5m penalty.

The Central Bank had widened its investigation into other lenders following the probe into Permanent TSB.

In July last year, three senior managers at Permanent TSB publicly apologised for the failures of the bank in not informing customers about their mortgage rights.

Permanent TSB revealed at the time some customers had either lost their homes or investment property because of the actions by the bank. 

The bank said it had found no evidence the failures were as a result of a deliberate policy or that customers were mis-sold products.

It said its failures included not informing the customer fully and not applying the correct mortgage rates.

The group said that 1,372 customers were affected across Permanent TSB and its Springboard unit because the bank had wrongly informed them about their rights under their contracts when they had requested changes to their mortgages between 2006 and 2011.

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