Ireland

Finance minister seeks assurances from Central Bank after data breach

The Central Bank of Ireland admitted to the error on Monday (Niall Carson/PA)
The Central Bank of Ireland admitted to the error on Monday (Niall Carson/PA) The Central Bank of Ireland admitted to the error on Monday (Niall Carson/PA)

The Minister for Finance has said it is important for him to receive an assurance from the Central Bank of Ireland that it will not repeat an error which potentially impacted the ability of thousands of borrowers to access credit.

On Monday, the Central Bank admitted that an “archiving error” saw borrower information staying on the central credit register (CCR) for an additional three months and included in credit reports when it should not have been.

The financial services regulator became aware of the mistake, which is a breach of data protection legislation, by following up on an enquiry from a member of the public earlier this month.

As a result of this error additional, outdated, information relating to May-July 2018 was available on the CCR database for inclusion in credit reports issued to borrowers and lenders in the period June 1 to August 7 2023.

The Central Bank said while this information was accurate, the additional three months of information should not have been made available.

Irish annual taxation report
Irish annual taxation report Minister for Finance Michael McGrath speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin, following the publication of the annual taxation report (Cillian Sherlock/PA)

It may have adversely affected decisions by lenders to extend new credit or decisions by borrowers to seek new credit in situations where the records for the extra months pointed to repayment difficulties during that period.

Of the 476,000 enquiries by borrowers in the first week of August – the records of approximately 20,500 borrowers with repayment difficulties in the extra period were accessed.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings on Thursday, Minister Michael McGrath said he will decide on any measures to seek accountability for the matter following his next discussing with the Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf.

However, he said he expected the matter to be “fully dealt with” independently by the Central Bank.

Asked what avenues of accountability are open for him to pursue, Mr McGrath said: “The Central Bank has put its hand up and acknowledged this was an error and it will be addressed.”

He added: “From my point of view, the important thing here is to fully understand how it happened, to have a reassurance that it won’t happen in the future and then to ensure that no customer is disadvantaged as a result of information being provided to a financial service provider that shouldn’t have been provided.”

Bank of Ireland’s new Dublin headquarters
Bank of Ireland’s new Dublin headquarters The Central Bank said the error was resolved on August 7 (Niall Carson/PA)

Speaking earlier on Thursday, Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the data breach was “of concern”.

“Obviously, people’s credit ratings and the fact that they’re up to date is actually very important.

“And I know Minister McGrath and his team have been engaging with the Central Bank on this. I will call on them to ensure that this is rectified with great haste, and that they look at their procedures within the bank to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Respond housing body 2022 report launch
Respond housing body 2022 report launch Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien (Niall Carson/PA)

The Central Bank said it began a remediation process on August 4 and the error was resolved on August 7.

It “sincerely apologises” for the error, saying: “We are engaging with lenders to advise them of the incident and to establish if the additional three months of historical credit information affected their lending decisions in any way.”