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‘Our children will in all likelihood lose their mother. We didn’t want to spend precious time calling PTSB’

PTSB kept a terminally ill mother waiting six months over mortgage protection policy payout

Just over a year ago a young mother of four children, including an infant, was told by her doctors she was terminally ill. The news couldn’t have been any more devastating and as she and her husband tried as best they could to come to terms with it, they set about getting their financial affairs in order.

They were able to take some small comfort from the fact that they had a mortgage protection policy that, at the very least, meant they wouldn’t be burdened by a large home loan.

But rather than alleviating their stress – at least to some degree – redeeming that policy only added to it because of the deficiencies of their lender, PTSB.

The woman – who we shall call Maeve, although that is not her real name – asked Pricewatch to highlight her story, find out what PTSB had to say in response and see if the Central Bank had a view on how the couple have been treated and how others might be treated in future.


We believe it is important to do just that.

After Maeve received the diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer, she and her husband applied to have their mortgage protection life insurance policy redeemed and, within a matter of weeks, their life insurer Royal London agreed to pay out.

Had that happened sooner rather than later the couple would at least have been given some financial respite over the second half of last year. But that did not happen.

“It took six months for PTSB and Pepper [who were administering their mortgage on behalf of PTSB] to locate the deed of assignment so that our mortgage could be cleared,” Maeve told Pricewatch. “It has been incredibly stressful for us, to the point where we have actually submitted a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman about the treatment we received at the hands of PTSB,” she said.

Maeve stressed that Royal London were “excellent to deal with and helped us to navigate some of the problems we had with PTSB” and she said she “suspected this was a more systemic issue” and pointed to a recent Pricewatch article about the delays a bereaved man had in getting paperwork out of PTSB. His wife died last autumn and, when he contacted us last month, he was still waiting for the bank to issue a deed of assignment that would enable him to clear his mortgage. After our intervention, PTSB resolved the situation and apologised.

Reading that story prompted Maeve to get in touch. She also sent us the letter written by her husband to the ombudsman and asked for it to be highlighted to give readers a clear understanding of what happened.

Maeve was diagnosed with her illness in February 2023 and since then has been through a number of surgeries and treatments to spend as much time with her four young children as possible. “It has been an extraordinarily challenging time and we have spent time getting Maeve’s affairs in order to the extent we are able,” the letter says.

“One aspect of this was that we had two life insurance policies assigned to our mortgage, which at the time of diagnosis was owned by PTSB, on which we were able to claim due to the terminal nature of Maeve’s illness. Royal London promptly assessed and approved our claim in June 2023 and got in touch with PTSB directly to arrange payments of the proceeds to discharge our mortgage and enable PTSB to send us the excess balance,” it continues.

“A key consideration of ours at the time was to have the funds to have the option to avail of private healthcare options and clinical trials which are very expensive,” the letter says.

The money would also have allowed Maeve’s husband to change jobs and take on a less demanding role earning less money. Doing that would have allowed the couple take care of their children together “and spend some extra valuable time together as a family”.

In the absence of the paperwork, it wasn’t possible as the mortgage had to be paid which “added an additional layer of stress and uncertainty” to an already awful situation.

The couple says they were “very proactive” in trying to progress the claim and gave PTSB two weeks after Royal London had sent them the documents. After that they called the bank to find out what was happening. “This was the beginning of a long saga of incompetence and indifference from an institution which has no concern for their customers, and no fear of any consequences. Over the following six months there were a large number of calls between ourselves and PTSB, pleading with them to progress the simple administration required to progress the payment of the assigned life insurance to them to close out the mortgage,” the couple says.

They point out that Royal London had completed all necessary steps (extensive correspondence with the couple, their GP and Maeve’s oncologist), made a final decision on the payment of the policies, informed us and contacted PTSB in a month.

They couple received confirmation that the policies would pay out toward to end of last June. Royal London also made contact, by numerous methods with PTSB at the end of June last year.

“None of this correspondence was ever located or acknowledged by PTSB. It was only when Royal London sent the same correspondence by registered post, after we were forced to get back in touch with Royal London, acting as an intermediary between the bank and the insurance company in July (while Maeve was hospitalised undergoing numerous emergency surgeries, including a period in intensive care), that PTSB first acknowledged our case in any way,” the letter says.

The couple lodged a complaint with PTSB and were unhappy with the response.

Most of what is written in that response “in relation to the deed of assignment, eg delays in contacting our solicitor, is a complete red herring. Our solicitor was not in possession of the deed of assignment. Ulster Bank was. We took out our mortgage with Ulster Bank in 2020. We never expected to be PTSB customers, this was foisted upon us and completely out of our hands, as PTSB purchased a tranche of performing loans as part of Ulster Bank’s closure. It was stressed by the State and the Central Bank at the time of Ulster Bank’s closure that customers should not be negatively impacted in any way by the movement of business from one institution to another but it is clear that this process was not completed properly in the case of our mortgage and we suffered the consequences of the clear inadequacies of this transfer process.”

The letter points out that from a customer’s perspective, “there is no distinction between Ulster Bank and PTSB in this context. Clearly there was an oversight in the transfer process, and any delays or costs as a result of this are the sole responsibility of the banks”.

The couple says they “don’t really care about the intricacies of how or when PTSB retrieved the deed of assignment (which they should have had in their possession had they completed the acquisition from Ulster Bank properly)”.

“This should have been nothing to do with us and yet we were forced to spend much of our precious time discussing this with our solicitor and following up with PTSB on numerous occasions about it. This is time Maeve will never get back.”

It also points out that in the middle of last year Maeve’s husband expressed his view that the couple would not be paying interest or premiums for delays caused by others.

“The interest that accrued during these delays is a cost that never would have accrued had PTSB done their work in a timely manner,” the couple says.

“In response to this, PTSB have offered a ‘gesture refund’ of the interest cost of €2,625 as well as €140 life insurance premiums we continued to incur. To be clear this €2,775 is simply a refund of costs we should never have incurred, as opposed to any kind of compensation/gesture. These monies should of course be refunded (as they should never have been due), but additionally consideration needs to be given to the investment return lost on the €115,000 we also should have had in our possession, as well as additional actual compensation to reflect the severity of PTSB’s deficiencies.”

The couple points out that this is “an incredibly painful time for our family. Our four young children will in all likelihood, lose their mother within the next year. We did not want to spend six months of this precious remaining time calling PTSB over 20 times, explaining our situation on the phone each and every time, all the while continuing with ongoing treatment, surgeries and bad news. The people we were dealing with in PTSB changed on a near constant basis. Even during periods where there was one individual assigned, they inevitably rolled off, or ceased contact with issues unresolved.”

The letter says the bank’s behaviour and deflection demonstrate that “there is no fear of consequences from non-existent customer support. There is no mechanism by which individuals can hold them to account aside from the ombudsman”.

The couple’s letter concludes by saying that there is “a wider issue here – systemically poor treatment of vulnerable customers. We are educated, financially literate people who understand the principles of mortgages, life insurance and interest and we can advocate for ourselves. Many people are not in a position to do the same. More than anything, we want the bank held accountable and for other customers who find themselves in similar unfortunate positions to not have to endure the same difficulties we did. We feel PTSB have not accepted accountability, as evidenced by the tone of deflection throughout their letter, and not addressed how they will remediate the errors they made for customers in the future. ”

We sent a detailed query to PTSB.

This is what the bank said in response.

“When customers are coping with such incredibly difficult personal circumstances as those being experienced by [this couple] it is more important than ever for the bank to find swift resolutions, engage in an empathetic manner and ultimately minimise any impact and effort required of them wherever possible.

“This was not the experience we provided and for that we sincerely apologise for our failings. We fully accept that the service provided to them throughout was not to the standard it should have been. While we had initially offered a refund of interest repayments, policy premiums as well as a separate goodwill gesture, this is no way makes up for the poor customer experience, including how the interest repayment refund was referenced in the response to the initial complaint.”

The bank told Pricewatch that it has spoken to Maeve’s husband “to offer our sincere apologies” and it is “arranging to meet these customers to apologise in person, offer support and compensate them appropriately for having to endure this unacceptable experience. We commit to remediating our process immediately to ensure that no customer ever has an experience of this nature again.”

We shared the response with Maeve.

She said that “from our perspective it’s all just words, and in truth I don’t really believe they will actually change anything substantively in response to this. I expect that if we stay the course with the ombudsman complaint, it would be at least partially upheld, and potentially referred onwards if the ombudsman felt there was a more systemic issue [but] as PTSB repeated at least three times on the last call, the FSPO case may take a number of years to conclude, which is another issue.

“As we see it, our end goal is that ultimately the Central Bank conduct a review into this, as they are the only body we are aware of who has the authority to access the data required to assess this properly, and to levy sufficiently appropriate fines on the institution for the systemic failures.”

We also brought the story to the attention of the Central Bank.

In a statement it said it was “conscious that this has been a very difficult period of time for Maeve and her family, which should not have been made more difficult by poor customer support from a financial services provider”.

“Our codes of conduct set out how regulated firms such as banks should deal with and treat their customers. Customers who may be experiencing particular vulnerabilities must be provided with whatever reasonable arrangements or assistance they need in dealings with regulated firms.

“Where a customer is unhappy with their financial services provider, they can submit a formal complaint to the provider, as [Maeve and her husband] have done. If they are not satisfied with the response, they have the option of bringing a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO).

“The FSPO is the statutory office which deals with unresolved complaints from consumers about their individual dealings with financial services providers after the internal complaints procedure with the provider concerned has been followed.

“The Central Bank welcomes information from consumers on their experience with the firms we supervise and the information provided has been shared with the appropriate team for review. We would like to assure members of the public that their concerns are heard and acted upon as part of our work.”

We shared that response with Maeve, who described it as “very generic and somewhat disappointing. What they don’t seem to appreciate is that we’re not seeking for them to adjudicate on our individual case [which will run its course eventually through the FSPO process]. What we’re attempting to achieve by getting the Central Bank involved is to highlight to them that there is a wider systemic issue here, which definitely sits under their remit”.