The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO) upheld or presided over the settling of 212 complaints it investigated against firms last year, with compensation in one case reaching €120,000 after a bank placed a house on the market without notifying the owner.
The organisation said that 629 complaints were closed through its investigation services last year, with 96 of these either upheld, substantially or partly upheld, at an average compensation of more than €6,400, according to calculations based off figures disclosed in the FSPO’s latest annual overview of complaints.
A further 116 were settled during investigation on foot of an offer from the provider, at an average value of more than €8,300.
Among individual cases highlighted in the report is one where mortgage holder, given the name Cathy, who bought a house in 2010 but moved the following year as it was badly damaged by flooding. Cathy subsequently fell into arrears on her loan and decided after some years to put the property on the market to pay her debt, to find that the bank had already put it on the open market, without her knowledge, even though it had her new address.
The borrower also said the bank had delayed its responses to her solicitor, increasing costs and mortgage arrears, along with impacting her credit rating.
“With the assistance of her solicitor, Cathy prevented the sale of the property and went on to sell the house for nearly €80,000 more than the price sought by the bank,” the report said. “While the bank did not respond to the specific allegations [in a complaint investigated by the FSPO], it apologised for the number of years that the matter had been ongoing and acknowledged that mistakes had been made while dealing with Cathy’s mortgage account and property.”
She was offered a compensatory sum of €120,000 which she accepted in final settlement of the matter, it said. The ombudsman does not identify financial institutions in case examples.
Banks were the subject of most grievances notified to the ombudsman last year, with total complaints rising to 4,781 from 4,658 in 2021, it said. A total of 4,647 complaints were closed last year, with more than 80 per cent coming to a conclusion through the FSPO’s early assessment process or dispute resolution service, lowering the need for investigations.
“Customer service remains the highest proportion of complaints in 2022, accounting for 28 per cent of complaints. This is a disappointing increase from what was already a significant volume in 2021, at 23 per cent of complaints,” said the FSPO Liam Sloyan.
Meanwhile, the FSPO received fewer than 100 complaints last year relating to the ongoing retreat of Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland from the market, even as hundreds of thousands of customers faced having to find alternative providers for their banking activities.
“Not all of these complaints were in relation to the conduct of those providers leaving the market,” it said. “It is very positive that, to date, for the vast majority of impacted consumers, the departure of two major banks has not given rise to issues leading to a complaint being made to this office.”
However, 15 years after the watchdog received first complaints in relation to the tracker-mortgage scandal, it continued to receive tracker submissions from consumers last year.
“While the number of new tracker-related complaints is on a downward trajectory, it is notable that 139 new complaints of this nature were made to the FSPO in 2022,” it said. However, of the 247 tracker mortgage rate complaints closed, only three were upheld.