The tracker mortgage scandal will, “without a shadow of a doubt”, affect more than 30,000 customers before the authorities get to grips with the matter, far higher than the 15,000 currently estimated by the Central Bank.
That is according to the mortgage advisor who first revealed the scandal, Padraic Kissane, who appeared before the Oireachtas Finance Committee with affected customers of Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank waiving their anonymity to tell their stories.
Mr Kissane, who has been advising hundreds of customers since the tracker scandal broke, said: “It is financial abuse on a grand scale, contrived to deceive customers of their contractual rights.”
Four of the biggest banks have set aside more than €500m in reserve between them to deal with redress and other compensation over the scandal, as 2m mortgage accounts are examined as part of a review ordered by the Central Bank.
Banks have admitted that people lost their homes because of the scandal, which occurred when customers were wrongly moved off tracker mortgages onto more expensive loans.
Mr Kissane compared Ireland’s mortgage market to a cartel. He said one of the best rates on offer at the minute was, a 10-year fixed mortgage from KBC at 2.95% compared unfavourably to European rates such as a 10-year fixed rate in Germany of 1.15%.
Low German-like rates are not available in Ireland because “the cartel wouldn’t allow it”, Mr Kissane said.
He said banks in Ireland had shown “astonishing” arrogance and condescension towards customers who queried wrongdoing in the mortgage market.
“I am asking on behalf of thousands of people — who the hell do you think you are?” said Mr Kissane.
The heads of Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank had appeared before the same committee in recent weeks, both apologising for wrongdoing — an empty gesture, said Mr Kissane.
The had been stalling, stonewalling and obfuscation by the banks since the scandal broke, he added.
“Their slogans are lies and full of marketing nonsense,” he said. “The integrity of financial services has been destroyed.”
When asked by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty about the numbers affected, Mr Kissane said he was certain it was much higher than previously admitted.
“I have cohorts outside the scope of the Central Bank review. Without a shadow of a doubt, it will be above 30,000,” he said.
Customers who waived their anonymity deserved huge credit for telling their stories, members of the committee said.
Thomas Ryan, from Wexford, who took a High Court case against Permanent TSB over being put on a wrong tracker rate, said banks had behaved appallingly.
“It is absolutely appalling,” he said. “They have destroyed lives all over this country. There are people no longer with us over this.
"They have committed suicide. And they don’t particularly give a damn. I have heard some of the submissions here in the last few weeks from some of the banks — it is an absolute disgrace, the generic, legalistic garbage they are churning out.”
Ulster Bank CEO Gerry Mallon admitted to the committee last week that it has raised its estimates of the numbers of its customers affected by 2,000 customers to 3,500. The bank has only paid compensation to 40 people.
Permanent TSB chief Jeremy Masding said it had revised its estimates upwards by almost 600 customers.
Both banks said people have lost their homes because of the errors made.
Two million mortgages were originally ordered to be reviewed as part of a probe of 15 lenders that were written to as part of the examination.
AIB has €190m, Bank of Ireland €25m, Permanent TSB €140m, and Ulster Bank €211m, set aside for redress and other costs associated with their review.
Although it has been stressed that each bank may not need to use all of the funds set aside, it gives an indication of how deep the issue is expected to go nationally when the Central Bank review is finally complete in 2018.
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