Belfast Telegraph

Leo Varadkar: The deadline for banks to act over tracker mortgages was yesterday

The Taoiseach has said the deadline for banks to pay back customers and give them their entitlement to a low-cost tracker mortgage was yesterday.

It is estimated that at least 30,000 borrowers and their families have been affected by the multimillion-euro overcharging scandal as 15 banks refused to fulfil obligations to give them the lowest interest rate in the market.

Leo Varadkar spoke out after borrowers attended an Oireachtas inquiry and laid bare the scale of the trauma and financial crisis inflicted on them by banks which refused them their right to a tracker.

"There are many people, many families, who were driven to distraction and endured enormous mental health traumas and fears about what would happen to their family," the Taoiseach said. "The deadline was yesterday."

Mr Varadkar, who has a tracker mortgage himself, made a clear demand of the 15 lenders involved.

"Any bank that wrongfully took somebody off a tracker, they should apologise, they should pay all the money back and they should do it yesterday."

One of those who told their story at the Oireachtas Finance Committee on Thursday was Thomas Ryan, who along with his wife Claire, finally and successfully faced down their bank in the courts.

He said people have died by suicide as a result of the scandal. Mr Ryan, aged in his late 40s and from Wexford, was a Permanent TSB customer who challenged its refusal to give him the tracker rate.

He said the banks should be forced into making amends. He suffered a stroke in 2013 and Mrs Ryan had a nervous breakdown in 2015, and lost the power of speech under the pressure of their fight to be restored to a tracker mortgage rate.

Scores of people and families were put out of their homes over the last eight years after being refused their entitlement to a tracker.

The Central Bank previously put the number of directly related repossessions at 100. It also previously estimated that up to 15,000 borrowers were affected by the issue across 15 lenders and it is due to update the committee next week.

Last week Ulster Bank said it will have to pay more than 100,000 euro to some of its 3,500 customers caught up in the industry-wide overcharging scandal.

Previously it was revealed that 2,100 Bank of Ireland mortgages were restored to tracker rates when the issue was identified in that bank in 2010 and 2011.

There were also about 1,400 cases of customers being denied tracker rates involving Springboard Mortgages, which was a subsidiary of Permanent TSB.

The Central Bank cannot force banks to compensate home owners for tracker issues prior to 2013.

The refusal of banks to allow customers to move on to trackers first emerged as far back as 2010 - the year taxpayers were lumbered with a multibillion-euro bailout of Ireland's banks.

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