FF hits out as bank passes on arrears list for survey

Fianna Fáil has criticised Bank of Ireland’s decision to divulge a list of its customers who are in arrears to a third party so it could carry out a customer satisfaction survey.

The comments came as the Taoiseach ruled out setting up an independent mortgage resolution agency.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the move was brought to his attention by one of the bank’s customers after they were contacted by the third-party company.

“The company’s repres-entative starting asking questions about how satisfied the customer was with how Bank of Ireland was dealing with her mortgage arrears problem. Bank of Ireland did not advise the customer in advance that her details had been passed on in this way.

“This practice raises a number of important questions. From a data protection perspective, has the bank the consent of customers experiencing difficulty with the mortgage to pass on their details to another company?”

Mr McGrath said with more than 140,000 family home mortgages in arrears, “the banks have a serious responsibility to treat these customers with compassion and professionalism. Bank of Ireland should clarify its approach before any further distress is caused.”

Mr McGrath had asked Finance Minister Michael Noonan if he believed it was appropriate for those in arrears to have their information passed on by the bank. The minister replied that it was the board of the bank who made decisions on operational issues and that he had no role in the commercial decisions taken.

He then quoted from a statement from the bank which read: “Bank of Ireland conducts on-going customer research to increase our understanding of customer needs... All such research is carried out in compliance with all relevant codes and standards.

“The output of all research is confidential to the BoI group and is used continuously by the bank to improve our customer’s experiences and the services that we offer.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny ruled out setting up an independent mortgage resolution agency. It came after Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that there had been over a 500% rise in the number of repossession cases in the courts in one period this year. The number of homes repossessed had jumped from 270 to 1,800 between the second and third quarter of this year, Mr Martin told the Dáil.

But Mr Kenny said he did not accept Mr Martin’s claims repossessions were becoming “the norm”. He said banks needed to “shake up” and resolve more debt with homeowners and that he welcomed ECB president Mario Draghi’s comments that lenders must do more.


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