Fine Gael TD for Kildare South, Martin Heydon, has today described as unacceptable the continuing delay by Ulster Bank in passing on the increased mortgage interest relief introduced in last year’s budget to its eligible customers. Budget 2012 provided an increase in mortgage interest relief from 25% to 30% for people who were first time buyers between 2004 and 2008. However, it appears that a significant number of Ulster Bank customers are unable to avail of the relief.
In response to a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Heydon, Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, stated that Ulster Bank is alone amongst the 132 qualifying lenders in not completing the necessary upgrades of their IT systems to facilitate payment of the new 30% rate to its customers.
Deputy Heydon said, ‘This issue was brought to my attention through the concern of some constituents who are Ulster Bank customers. I cannot believe that an initiative that was introduced by Government to assist struggling mortgage holders has still not been passed on by the Bank. I fear that many Ulster Bank customers assume this increase was automatically passed on and do not realise it is still outstanding’.
“This measure has provided much needed relief to the people that were hardest hit as a result of the economic collapse. But it is being denied to customers of Ulster Bank because of their failure to upgrade their IT systems. Coupled with Ulster Bank’s ‘IT glitch’ earlier this year which affected tens of thousands of its customers, the picture that is emerging is very worrying.
“In the current economic climate it is extremely challenging for Government to find the funds to introduce these supportive initiatives. To discover that when we do introduce such an initiative, that a banking institution would not ensure it is passed on to hard pressed customers immediately, is highly frustrating. For those Ulster Bank mortgage holders who are in arrears or struggling with their mortgages, this situation is extremely serious.
“Ulster Bank have had since last December, when the budget measure was announced, to upgrade their systems. It is imperative that this increased relief is passed on to customers before the end of this tax year.
“I have written to Ulster Bank CEO Mr. Jim Brown calling for a precise timeline as to when there will be a permanent resolution to this issue and also seeking assurances that anyone who has suffered interest on arrears while this relief is outstanding will have their accounts reviewed immediately and be reimbursed and compensated for their losses.”