Bank of Ireland fined more than 100m euro over tracker mortgage breaches
Bank of Ireland has been fined more than 100m euro by the Central Bank for regulatory breaches affecting tracker mortgage customers.
The fine of 100,520,000 euro is the largest ever imposed by the Central Bank.
It said the penalty was imposed for a series of “significant and long-running failings” in respect of 15,910 tracker mortgage customer accounts affected between August 2004 and June 2022.
Bank of Ireland has admitted to 81 separate regulatory breaches.
It has apologised to customers for failures which led to customer harm and detriment, and for the length of time it took to recognise and resolve the issues which added to customer distress.
The Central Bank investigation found that Bank of Ireland failures resulted in the loss of 50 properties, including 25 family homes, which would have been avoided if it had complied with the “most basic and fundamental of its consumer protection obligations”.
The Central Bank investigation found that Bank of Ireland had provided “unclear contractual documents” to customers. It said mortgage letters of offer were “unclear and ambiguous” regarding customers’ right to a tracker rate after a fixed rate period.
It also said that Bank of Ireland repeatedly, over a period of over nine years, interpreted these unclear documents in its own favour and denied customers a tracker rate.
The investigation also found that the bank had failed to warn customers about the consequences of decisions relating to their mortgages.
It also said Bank of Ireland implemented an unfair complaints handling practice and that deficient mortgage systems and controls contributed to a significant number of operational errors.
The investigation also concluded that the bank wrongfully excluded customers from the protections of the Tracker Mortgage Examination.
The Central Bank’s director of enforcement and anti-money laundering, Seana Cunningham, said: “Customers are entitled to expect that they will be treated fairly and that financial institutions will act in their best interests.
“Bank of Ireland failed to meet these most basic expectations for almost 16,000 of its customers over an extended period of time.
“The failings resulted in significant and, at times, devastating detriment for many of those customers.”
She added: “Our investigation exposed a culture in Bank of Ireland which, when faced with a choice, prioritised its own interests with little to no regard for the impacts on its customers.
“There were a series of missed opportunities during which Bank of Ireland could have done the right thing by its tracker mortgage customers.
“Despite these opportunities, Bank of Ireland repeatedly interpreted unclear contractual terms in its own favour and against the customer, which continued the harm and loss caused to customers over many years.”
Bank of Ireland has more than 169 branches and approximately 2.2 million customers.
Gavin Kelly, interim chief executive at Bank of Ireland Group, said: “Today’s statement from the Central Bank of Ireland is extremely critical of Bank of Ireland.
“We understand – and fully accept – why this is.
“What took place in relation to tracker mortgages was wrong. It should never have happened. We are very sorry that it did.
“We unreservedly apologise to all customers harmed by the tracker mortgage issue. The impacts were significant and wide-reaching, up to and including loss of homes in the most serious of cases.
“Banking is based on trust, but our failures damaged that trust.
“We have learned the hard lessons, and have taken steps to ensure we are a more customer-focused bank today.
“This work continues. Rebuilding the confidence of both our customers and the wider society we serve will take time, but we are committed to that journey.”