Irish Times – August 13, 2015
Irish Times – August 13, 2015

Liam Fitzgerald leaving the Four Courts on Thurssday. Photograph: Paddy Cummins

Permanent TSB agrees to repay €61,000 to overcharged couple

Thu, Aug 13, 2015, 13:34 – Aodhan O’Faolain, Ray Managh

Homeowners challenge lender requirement to accept ‘derisory’ compensation before repayment.

A couple who brought High Court proceedings against Permanent TSB are to be repaid the full €61,000 they were overcharged by the lender.

Liam Fitzgerald and Angela Wallace are among the 1,100 customers of Permanent TSB who were found to have been overcharged by a Central Bank investigation.

They earlier claimed PTSB had demanded they must accept its offer of compensation of just over €6,000 before it would repay the amount the bank overcharged them.

The couple, who always fully complied with their mortgage with PTSB, claimed it was “utterly improper and unlawful” for the bank to place such a condition on the repayment of the monies which PTSB admits were due and owing to them.

The couple also claimed they were asked to accept what they believe to be a “derisory compensation offer”.

Injunction sought

Last week, they launched High Court proceedings seeking various orders against PTSB plc, including an injunction requiring the lender to discharge its admitted liability in the sum of €61,195.13.

They are also seeking damages for alleged breach of contract, unlawful interference with their economic interests and punitive and exemplary damages.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Robert Haughton on Thursday.

Following talks between the parties the judge was told by Richard Kean SC, for the couple, that the action could be adjourned generally, with liberty to reapply to have the proceedings re-entered if necessary.

Afterwards, Mr Fitzgerald, a solicitor based in Lusk Co Dublin, said it had been agreed between the parties that he and his wife are to be repaid the €61,000 PTSB admitted overcharging them.

The couple are still seeking damages against the lender as a result of being overcharged.

Appeal panels

A spokesperson for the bank said: “The bank’s position has always been that customers can accept the redress and compensation immediately and still appeal for more compensation through our appeal panels, or take the matter to the Financial Services Ombudsman or the courts if they wish.”

The couple, from Lusk in Co Dublin, were informed last month they had been overcharged by more than €61,000 by PTSB in respect of their mortgage on their current and previous family homes for a period in excess of six years.

Following the Central Bank’s investigation, PTSB, the couple alleged, wrote to them and said it would repay them what was overcharged, but only subject to their acceptance of PTSB’s offer of compensation of €5,798.92.

‘Utterly reprehensible’

In a sworn statement grounding the application, Mr Fitzgerald said it was “utterly reprehensible ” that PTSB has not unequivocally offered to “immediately” and “without question” repay the amount they were overcharged.

There is “no legal basis” for refusing to pay the sums overcharged, he said. He said the condition that they accept the offer of compensation offered before they can get back the amount overcharged is “a disgraceful requirement”.

He said he and his wife are “extremely and naturally anxious” to get back the funds due to them. The overcharging had caused him and family financial pressures in order to meet the mortgage repayments, he said.

His family had to make sacrifices and he had to “beg and borrow sums of money from family members” to maintain the upkeep of his home, which he says has also been affected by pyrite, and to cover the cost of setting up a new business.

They have no savings, he adds. None of these difficulties would have been encountered by his family had the couple not been overcharged by the lender, he said.

The compensation offer, he said, represents a mere 9 per cent of of the money they were deprived of for the time they were overcharged, which works out at 1.5 per cent per annum. At an absolute minimum he says they ought to be compensated at the Courts Act Interest Rate of 8 per cent per annum.

He said the couple had moved their mortgage to a tracker rate, which they are entitled to.

Failed to inform

In its investigation, the Central Bank found PTSB failed to inform certain customers of the consequences of their decisions to break early from a fixed rate or discounted tracker period, which saw them lose their contractual right to be offered a tracker rate in the future.

The Central Bank also found PTSB failed to inform other customers of their right to be offered a tracker rate at the end of any fixed rate period. Another mortgage provider, Springboard, was also found by the Central Bank to have overcharged some 220 customer accounts.

The investigation said the lender’s failures were a key factor in the loss of ownership of at least 22 properties.