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There is a 75% chance that you have a major problem with your bank or building society that you know nothing about!!!!
Are you one of the lucky 25%?
BANKCheck is your totally independent financial partner with a checking service that will quickly tell you if there are problems with your building society or bank account and set about fixing them. We will recover any monies owed to you (with interest of course).
BANKcheck are staffed predominately by experienced ex-bank officials with over 100 years of banking knowledge. As well as having a wealth of banking experience we have access to a team of legal experts specialising in financial matters.
Major areas of concern to Bankcheck are
· Interest Overcharges
· Inaccurate Fees
· Penalty Rates
· Hidden Charges
· Incorrect Account Setup
· Incorrect Interest Margins
· Credit Accounts Ignored
· Accounts Not Set Off
· Unfair Contracts
· Inappropriate Security
· Unjust Guarantees
'Every bank is guilty of overcharging customers'
Eddie Fitzpatrick believes overcharging is deliberate policy, he tells Eamon Quinn
The Oireachtas's Economic Regulatory Affairs Committee is about to get serious on the running sore in Irish banking. Its chairman Michael Moynihan last week received bundles of files at Leinster House from Ireland's leading expert on bank overcharging, Eddie Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick, a director at BankCheck, talks to the Sunday Tribune about the scale of the overcharging, details the way the ombudsman's appeals system "scandalously" favours the banks, and reveals a new public relations disaster facing Anglo as it goes about refunding overcharged customers.
What's the problem?
What I am saying is why not give back the money to those who are owed it. I had a case settled with AIB last week. You have no idea what such a small amount of money will mean to this man. I suppose what I want to do is to educate the legislators about what is happening in each individual bank. Because a lot of what has been said has been said of Anglo. ACC, AIB, Ulster Bank, Irish Nationwide – every single one of these banks is guilty.
Guilty of what precisely?
Guilty of overcharging customers. We have been doing this for 14 years. We have only looked at Anglo for the last 18 months whereas we have looked at AIB for the last 14 years.
Overcharging is not a new phenomenon because the banks will not get things 100% right, 100% of the time. Mistakes do happen. The problem we are seeing is it happens all the one way – in favour of the banks. It is deliberate action as far as I am concerned. We are seeing it across all the Irish-owned and other banks. It is a problem in the industry. As far as we are concerned, it has always been here.
From what you are saying, people do not realise the huge amounts owed?
I would think, unfortunately, that the scale of the overcharging will be left with taxpayers.
Michael Moynihan, before he met you, estimated at least €100m would need to be repaid by the banks, excluding Anglo. And Mike Aynsley of Anglo estimated Anglo alone would need to repay €30m to €50m up to 2004. What are your own figures?
In my own reckoning, the Anglo problem is 10 times what they are quoting in the newspapers. And the Anglo loan book is a lot less than the other banks. You are into many hundreds of millions. It could be up to €1bn overall. We are saying Anglo alone could be €300m to €500m. I do not think that legislators knew about the full problem. We need the government, the regulator and the banking ombudsman to realise the problem and to give the money back to those who are owed it. The process is too slow. In a case we took to the ombudsman on ACC Bank, which I showed to Michael Moynihan, it is the worst decision I have come across.
The process after they make the decision is so directed at helping the banks that there needs to be a better process in place. You send the case to the ombudsman. I get a letter from the ombudsman that says we are rejecting your claim on the following basis. But you are only given 15 days to appeal this decision – and you can only appeal it to the High Court.
That is absolutely scandalous. It may be three or four days before you get the letter. You then have maybe 12 days not only to find a solicitor but to get that solicitor into the High Court. It is not going to happen.
Of course, if the decision goes against the bank, they have got a solicitor in the next door office
to draw up an appeal straightaway.
What did you show Moynihan?
I showed him only a small range of the 600 cases. You can explain it by going through two or three cases for every bank. Unless you have high banking knowledge you would not know you were being overcharged. The problem is a lot of the bankers do not know either.
These are ingrained practices?
The only thing you can conclude is that the system is set up to default in favour of the bank every single time.
And the types of overcharging?
We deal with every type of corporate loan business. We charge a fee and commission. We tend to focus on commercial loans, commercial mortgages, commercial overdrafts and invoice discounting. Residential mortgages, I am quite sure, are also affected as well. At this moment, we do not look at many of them because it does not pay us to look at them. The problem is that it takes weeks and weeks for one residential mortgage.
So, you are saying that you could go into any lender, north or south, in this country and you would be guaranteed that a percentage of any, say, 10 loans would be overcharged?
We could guarantee that more would be wrong than right. It changes from bank to bank. Without going into specifics, some banks would show an even higher percentage than that. We know what we are looking for in each bank. That is why the system is flawed: the ombudsman has to start from scratch every single time. We can fast-track that. Cutting to the chase, we are here to get back the money for the people owed the money.
When was the last time you dealt with the regulator?
We have not dealt with the new regulator. But I am so unimpressed with the system in the financial ombudsman. As soon as they make their final decision they blank you. I have never since trusted their judgment. I was challenged to bring a case to the ombudsman. I did, and all that did was to confirm my fears.
How do you find the London regulators?
There are a lot of ex-bankers dealing with the banks' problems there.
So, your experiences are the same in Dublin and London?
Back home, I have shown Moynihan a case. The customer borrowed from a bank up to 2006. He was penalised €50,000. They based their whole case on one line in 1996.
Anything in the last two years?
We have had cases settled against Irish Nationwide; against AIB; against Ulster Bank; Bank of Ireland and ACC – you name it, we have had refunds on overcharging interest.
On Anglo, do you have cases after 2004?
I am bringing this up with the legislators. The bank has stupidly gone on the record and I think it is a PR disaster for Anglo. Mike Aynsley has opened a can of worms – and he does not know how many worms are in the can. If it suddenly stopped in 2004, why was it not stopped before then?
But you have Anglo cases after 2004?
Yes, but this was driven up to 2004. Michael Moynihan and the other legislators will not be doing their job if they do not ask who decided that the practice would be stopped in 2004 and why were the refunds not made in 2004?
We think we know what the problem was. We do not want to prejudice ourselves. We have offered our services to Anglo, and they have stonewalled us. What the regulator is saying is that it does not have the resources. Anglo has gone on the record saying it is getting the overcharging independently verified. I would like to know who is doing the independent verification.
All Anglo has to do is to refund money to one person, and if we can prove they got it wrong, then Anglo is absolutely snookered.