Case Studies

2014

Cases Settled - prior to formal investigation taking place

Case Study 1

Bank Account Issue

Complaint with Bureau for 3 months

This complaint related to the Bank’s handling of a presented cheque. The cheque was presented, but declined as the Bank was not satisfied with signature on cheque. The Complainant stated he was embarrassed as his supplier contacted him for an explanation about the non-payment. Mediation was offered by the Bureau and at that stage, the Bank confirmed it was not happy with its initial handling of the complaint. The Bank agreed to refund the unpaid charges and donated a sum, as requested by the Complainant, to a charity of his choice. The Complainant confirmed he was satisfied with the outcome.

Case Study 2

Insurance Issue

Complaint with Bureau for 4 months

This complaint related to the Provider’s handling of a claim for fire damage to the Complainant’s property. The Complainant was unhappy with the Provider’s decision to decline the claim and its subsequent handling of the matter. The Bureau, on receipt of the complaint, asked the Provider to address the matter in more detail. From there, both parties engaged. The matter was resolved with the claim being paid. The complaint was actioned within the Bureau over a four month period. During that time the FSOB was in extensive correspondence with both parties and once the Complainant confirmed the matter had been resolved amicably, the case was closed.

Case Study 3

Mortgage Issue – Reinstatement of Tracker Rate

Complaint with Bureau for 3 months

The Complainants had an issue with their mortgage and the Bank’s subsequent response to their initial query. The Complainants argued that the Bank erred in not re-instating a tracker rate on the said mortgage after a fixed period had ended. Initial documents were exchanged between both parties and formal mediation was offered by the Bureau. Following this, the Bank contacted this office and proposed a settlement offer, which the Complainants duly accepted.

Case Study 4

Insurance Claim Payment Issue

Complaint with Bureau for 1 month

The Complainant’s property was damaged by a burst water pipe and as a result she submitted a claim to the underwriter (through her broker). The Complainant was unhappy with the initial lack of contact from the Provider or its representatives. The Provider’s Loss Assessor agreed to settle the matter for a four figure sum to cover the cost of repairs. The Complainant accepted this offer and awaited payment of same. After a period of two months, the Complainant had not received any payment. The Complainant contacted the Provider, expressing her dissatisfaction with the handling of the matter. The Provider’s response to the complaint was that it was entitled to make payments in “stages, on evidence of work being carried out” (in line with the policy’s Terms & Conditions). The Complainant submitted a complaint to the Bureau. In response to our enquiries, the Provider acknowledged that its customer service had lapsed and agreed to pay the four figure sum (as agreed with Loss Assessor) and make a donation of €500 to the Complainant’s charity of choice, for the delays in dealing with the issue. The Complainant confirmed she was satisfied with the outcome and the file was closed.

Cases Settled - during the course of formal investigation

Case Study 1

Investment Complaint – Mis-selling

Formal investigation closed after 11 months – Resolved after formal mediation

The Complainant invested €275,000 with the Provider in 2007, split 70%/30% between two types of Funds. The Complainant made the complaint in May 2013, advising she had sustained a loss of 33%. She took the view that the investment had been mis-sold to her as she had been wrongly categorised as a progressive investor when she was in fact a very conservative or a low risk investor.

In addition, the Complainant pointed out that she was suffering ill-health at the time and the Provider had failed to adequately take into account her decision-making capabilities being compromised, as a result of the medical treatment she was undergoing in 2007. Similarly, the Complainant maintained that the Provider failed to take into account the source of the funds available for investment, which were as a result of litigation which had recently been settled arising from her medical issues. In addition, the Complainant maintained that no adequate assessment of her risk profile had been undertaken by the Provider prior to the investment being sold.

Following the commencement of the formal investigation of the complaint, the Provider responded in detail to the issues raised and the parties exchanged a number of additional submissions. In the course of the adjudication of the complaint a communication was received from the Provider suggesting a late mediation and the Financial Services Ombudsman agreed to facilitate the parties. Thereafter, the parties and their respective representatives attended our offices for a formal mediation which continued for a full working day and which ultimately achieved a resolution of the dispute between the parties. The file was closed noting that the complaint had been settled between the parties.

Case Study 2

Household Insurance Complaint – Pay out on policy declined

Formal investigation closed after 2 months

Following gale force winds in late December 2013, a household policyholder complained to the Financial Services Ombudsman in relation to a claim, which had been declined by her insurers, for the cost of storm damage sustained to a domestic shed, when the roof blew away. Her claim had been declined, on the basis that the shed was of non-standard construction. However, the Complainant maintained that the roof had consisted of heavy duty insulated cladding bolted to wall plates and purlins. She contended that these were appropriate materials in the circumstances, which had served their purpose well for 25 years, before the damage occurred.

The formal investigation was commenced by this office in June 2014, raising certain queries with the Provider, in respect of the policy documentation, the contractual definitions and the assessments of the structure, and calling for the production of all contemporaneous documentation. Four weeks later, the Financial Services Ombudsman was notified that discussions were in train between the parties. We were advised that the dispute was resolved and the file was closed.

Case Study 3

Mortgage Complaint – Restructure request declined

Formal investigation closed after 4 months

In 2009, the Complainant separated from her husband and secured a loan from the Bank in order to purchase her ex-husband’s share of the family home. The loan fell into arrears in late 2013 and at the time of the complaint, there were arrears. The Complainant at that point, was unemployed and in receipt of a disability pension, but was anticipating drawdown of pension benefits in late 2015. In those circumstances she proposed to the Bank that she utilise her pension lump sum as the basis for a mortgage re-structure but the Bank, although originally enthusiastic, ultimately refused the Complainant’s proposal. The Complainant, who was represented by MABS, complained that the Bank’s response was unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory within the meaning of the provisions of the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Act 2004.

The formal investigation of the complaint commenced in June 2014 and a number of questions were put to the Bank in relation to the issues arising. The following month, the Financial Services Ombudsman was notified by the Bank that it wished to re-engage with the Complainant with a view to exploring the possibilities of resolving the dispute. Communications continued and ultimately the issues were settled between both parties in October 2014.

Case Study 4

Investment Complaint – Mis-selling

Oral hearing cancelled due to settlement – Formal investigation closed after 20 months

In 2007, the Complainant who was in her 40s, invested €28,000 into a high risk property fund via the Provider’s pension policy. At the time of the complaint in 2013, the investment had fallen to nil.

The Complainant maintained that the investment had not been suitable for her and had been mis-sold given her status as self-employed, her limited financial resources, in addition to certain reading difficulties which required her to secure assistance in reading and understanding written documents. The Complainant maintained that she had a very low level of financial knowledge.

The Complainant’s pension had been of modest size and up to that point had been managed conservatively. Following a meeting with the Provider’s tied agent, the investment proceeded and at the time of the complaint in 2013, the Complainant maintained that she had been pressured into transferring her pension into the investment on the basis that it was risk-free, whereas it was, in fact, a geared property fund categorised as high risk/aggressive. The Complainant disputed the contents of the financial fact find and statement of suitability and maintained that she did not in fact understand the word “gearing”.

The formal investigation of the complaint commenced in late 2013 and the parties’ submissions and observations in relation to the issues arising, continued until April 2014. In the course of the adjudication of the complaint, the Financial Services Ombudsman determined that the evidence disclosed conflicts of fact which required the taking of oral evidence, for the purpose of the fair adjudication of the complaint. The parties were therefore notified that the Ombudsman intended to schedule an Oral Hearing for the purpose of taking testimony on oath.

The parties were given two months notice of the scheduled date for the Oral Hearing. Four days prior to the Hearing scheduled, this office was notified by the parties that the matter had been settled directly between the parties. The file of the Financial Services Ombudsman was closed on this basis.

Case Study 5

Household Insurance Complaint – Settlement of insurance claim not sufficient

Formal investigation closed after 7 months

A gentleman complained to the Financial Services Ombudsman that his holiday home had suffered extensive damage from a fire, maliciously set.

Although the Provider accepted liability for the loss, the settlement figure offered was unacceptable to the Complainant. The dispute centred on the Provider’s suggestion that the property had been under-insured and the Complainant maintained that the Provider had wrongly included insurance on certain outbuildings in its calculations, thereby reducing the settlement sum. The Complainant maintained that when the premises had been insured, no mention whatsoever had been made of outbuildings and such outbuildings were never intended to be covered.

The formal investigation commenced in December 2013 and following receipt of the Provider’s formal response in January 2014, the parties' submissions continued thereafter until the end of March 2014. The Financial Services Ombudsman commenced the adjudication of the complaint, but in doing so, he noted a number of conflicts in the evidence.

As a result, in May 2014, a number of additional queries were raised with the Provider in relation to various policy definitions and in respect of certain outstanding details concerning assessments and visits to the property by representatives of the Provider.

By way of response, two weeks later, the Provider confirmed that insurers had conducted a full and in-depth review of the file and were now willing to settle the claim directly with the Complainant. Thereafter, the Complainant’s representative confirmed settlement of the dispute directly as between the parties and the file of the Financial Services Ombudsman was closed on the basis that the matter had been resolved.

Case Study 6

Three Investment Complaints – all linked – Mis-selling

Formal investigation closed after 11 month

In 2010, the Complainant invested a sum of €50,000 in a 10 year Bond, attracting a specified annual interest rate. The Complainant maintained that, unknown to him, the Bond carried a high level of risk and he complained that the sale of the investment to him had been totally unsuitable.

In 2011, subsequent to the enactment of the Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010, the Complainant became obliged to sell the Bond back to the Provider at a 75% discount, leading to a loss of €37,500.

The Complainant made complaints to the Financial Services Ombudsman against three individual Financial Service Providers as follows:-

  • The Complainant maintained a complaint against the insurance intermediary which sold the product to him in 2010 on the basis that the investment was unsuitable for him and no adequate assessment of his suitability had taken place.
  • The Complainant maintained a complaint against another financial service provider (which had facilitated the transfer of funds to and from the Complainant’s ARF, by co-signing the fund transfer request instruction) on the basis that the Provider ought to have questioned the suitability of that type of investment for his pension fund when all other investments in his pension fund were capital guaranteed.
  • The Complainant maintained a complaint against a third financial service provider which had marketed the Bond, on the basis that this Provider had failed to carry out any assessment of the Complainant’s suitability for an investment which was too long term and that the Provider had wrongfully categorised the Complainant as a “retail” client. The Complainant sought to rely on the provisions of the MiFID Directive as implemented by SI No. 60/2007 (European Communities [Market in Financial Instruments] Regulations 2007).

Three separate investigation files were opened and the three individual complaint investigations formally commenced in February 2014. Thereafter, the parties’ responses and ongoing submissions and observations continued at length for a number of months.

On completion of the exchange of documentation, the adjudications commenced. The Financial Services Ombudsman was notified in November 2014 that the Complainant’s three individual grievances were being withdrawn, in circumstances where these matters had been resolved directly between the parties.

Case Study 7

Farm Insurance Complaint

Formal investigation closed after 6 months

A gentleman complained in relation to a policy of farm insurance taken out in 2009 via the Provider who was an insurance intermediary. He explained that the intermediary had completed the proposal form on his instructions but, contrary to his confirmation, the intermediary had entered the address of his farm, as his residential address, albeit that the farm was twenty miles from where the Complainant lived. When the Complainant subsequently made a claim on the policy he discovered that the policy did not cover the farmland and he was unable to claim for the loss sustained of €50,000.

The formal commencement of the Complainant’s grievance against the Provider was commenced by the Financial Services Ombudsman in February 2014. Following receipt of the Provider’s formal response in March 2014, the parties’ respective submissions continued over a period of three months.

In the course of the adjudication by the Financial Services Ombudsman, a number of conflicts were noted in the documentary evidence received. In particular, queries arose and were put to the Provider in July 2014 in relation to a farm safety questionnaire, which was missing from the file and in respect of a handling fee referred to in the contemporaneous documentation. In addition, the Financial Services Ombudsman raised certain queries in relation to the Provider’s adherence to the Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code with particular reference to the issue of “suitability” and in respect of the notification of certain key features of the policy. Additional queries were also raised in relation to missing/outstanding audio records of telephone calls between the parties dating from 2009.

Subsequently, ten days later this office was notified by the Complainant that the matter had been resolved directly as between the parties. The file of the Financial Services Ombudsman was therefore closed noting that the matter had been settled.

Case Studies - where a finding was issued following investigation

Case Study 1

Investment Complaint

Mis-selling of an investment – highly geared property fund. Ombudsman directed that €200,000 be returned to Complainant following investigation, oral hearing and finding.

Finding UPHELD

A woman complained to the Ombudsman that shortly after being widowed in 2006, she sought investment advice from the Provider which resulted in an investment of €200,000 into a highly geared property fund. The Complainant was adamant that the huge level of risk involved in this investment had not been explained and the investment sold by the Provider was wholly unsuitable for her in circumstances where she was seeking to invest the proceeds of a life assurance policy in order to provide for the future, taking into account her responsibilities for her three children.

The Provider maintained that alternative investments had been suggested to the Complainant, including one which was capital guaranteed and another which offered a medium level of risk. The Provider maintained that the investment had proceeded on an execution-only basis and that the “suitability letter” had issued in error to the Complainant, when it was not in fact necessary.

An issue arose as to the beneficial ownership of the investment, although by August 2012 the investment had a nominal value of €0. At the Oral Hearing, the Complainant confirmed that in late 2006 the figure invested represented approximately 25% of the overall funds available for investment. The Provider’s representative confirmed that in late 2006 this particular geared investment product had been categorised as “medium” risk. It further came to light that no financial fact find had been carried out and no investment meetings or discussions had taken place between the parties. The Provider’s representative confirmed that, in this instance, the investment proposal had been communicated to the Complainant through her brother who was connected to the Provider. It was further noted that the “investment proposal” document which the Complainant received, referred to a “low-risk profile”.

The evidence from the Complainant at the Oral Hearing clarified that it was her funds alone which were invested in the product in late 2006. The evidence also confirmed that the recommendation letter, which included an explanation that the maximum loss was restricted to the entirety of the amount invested in the fund, was not signed by the Complainant until more than two months after the commencement of the investment.

Having considered the evidence, the Ombudsman rejected the suggestion that the investment had proceeded on an execution only basis. He found a complete failure on the Provider’s part to assess the suitability of the product to the Complainant, notwithstanding its knowledge that she was particularly vulnerable at the time. He took the view that there had been a total abdication of responsibility by the Provider and that it had failed in its duty of care to the Complainant and, in particular, it had failed to take into account her complete lack of investment experience, her vulnerable status and the circumstances at the time of the investment, only a number of months after her husband’s death.

The Ombudsman found that the investment product had been mis-sold and directed an immediate payment to the Complainant in the sum of €200,000.

Case Study 2

Investment Complaint

Mis-selling of an investment – highly geared property fund. Ombudsman directed that €200,000 be returned to Complainant following investigation, oral hearing and finding.

Finding PARTLY UPHELD

This complaint was made by a gentleman who complained to the Ombudsman that the provider had misled him into believing that an investment made for his pension was secure and had failed to furnish information about the extremely low debt ranking of the Bond in which his funds were invested; he had never been told that his pension had invested in a bond issued by a Cayman Islands company. The Complainant also alleged that his portfolio manager was financially incentivised to maximise the income to the broker and that this had given rise to mis-selling and a breach of fiduciary duty to him. The Complainant maintained that he had a risk profile of “low-medium risk”.

The Provider, i.e., the broker, confirmed that the Complainant’s risk profile was classified internally to indicate a limited exposure to risk, i.e. essentially mid-range. The Provider relied upon the Complainant’s decision to select medium-risk therefore eschewing two lower categories of risk options which had been available to him. The broker also maintained that the transaction had been effected on an execution-only basis, at the request of the Complainant, and as a result, the Provider was not required to determine the suitability of the investment for the Complainant and could not be held liable for any loss suffered as a result. Moreover, the Provider indicated that twice during 2010 a representative of the broker had suggested to the Complainant that the stock in question should be sold, but the Complainant had elected not to sell.

The Ombudsman noted that the Complainant had executed his discretionary terms of business and a discretionary share dealing account had been opened with the Provider/broker for his pension. The Ombudsman called the parties to give evidence at an Oral Hearing at which the Provider maintained that the transactions at issue, had not been initiated or executed by it on behalf of the Complainant and that in fact, rather, it was the Complainant himself who had contacted the portfolio manager to request the specific purchase of the investment for his portfolio.

The Ombudsman noted that various risk factors represented by the investment, were set out in detail in a section of the prospectus covering more than 20 pages. He noted that, after the first element of the investment had been made, the Complainant had then received the prospectus for the Bond, but he had elected not to examine the contents, which would have afforded him the opportunity to determine that the Bond was not suitable for his particular needs. The Ombudsman took the view that the Provider could not be held responsible for the Complainant’s failure to read the prospectus, which it seems had arisen owing to the size of the document, which he had received by way of e-mail.

The Ombudsman also noted that the Complainant had rejected other investment opportunities and his interaction with the Provider was indicative of a client who did not have a “passive” discretionary relationship with the Provider. Bearing in mind the involvement of the Complainant in making investment decisions, the Provider’s records indicated that it had suggested to the Complainant that the status be changed to an advisory account, in order to reflect this involvement.

Having considered all of the evidence, the Ombudsman took the view, on the balance of probabilities, that the Complainant had made up his own mind that he wanted to proceed with the investment in question and he had not sought the Provider’s advice. The audio evidence from the relevant time also made it clear that the Complainant was in no way a novice investor and there was insufficient evidence to establish that the Complainant’s decision had been taken on the basis of any advice he received from the Provider.

The Ombudsman noted that while a discretionary account was in existence at the time of the disputed transactions, the transactions themselves were not discretionary. Although the broker had elected not to rely upon the discretionary remit, nevertheless in the Ombudsman’s opinion, the transactions effected were not “execution only” as it was the Provider which had specifically brought the attention of the Complainant to the investment opportunity. He took the view that when the Provider had formed the opinion that it could not make a discretionary investment, because the investment product was one which did not fall within the Complainant’s documented risk profile, then, at that point, it should have proactively sought to furnish all relevant investment material (in particular the investment prospectus) to the client in order to afford him the opportunity to make a fully informed investment decision. In this instance the Provider had not furnished any acceptable reason as to why this had not happened, though it was also unclear as to why the Complainant had not sought investment material from the broker before electing, of his own volition, to proceed with the first element of the investment.

The Ombudsman noted that e-mail communications, two years after the product had been purchased reflected the very substantial losses on the value of the investment, without any complaint or adverse comment whatsoever from the Complainant at that time, and it was not until 2011 when the Complainant first articulated any dissatisfaction. The Ombudsman partly upheld the complaint, noting that even if the Provider had furnished the prospectus to the Complainant in advance of his first investment in the product, it remained unclear as to whether the Complainant would have reviewed the contents; on the evidence, it seemed most probable that he would not have done so. However, to reflect the failures of the Provider - broker, the Ombudsman directed a compensatory payment in favour of the Complainant in the sum of €10,000.

Case Study 3

Phishing Complaint

Complainant responded to a phishing email divulging all necessary details required to access her online banking account. On the basis of gross negligence on the Complainant’s part this complaint was not upheld.

Finding NOT UPHELD

The complaint to the Ombudsman from this lady was that whilst attempting to access her online banking, a “pop-up” appeared on her screen, which she believed had arisen in order to solve a problem which was blocking her from her account. As a result of the Complainant’s entry of her personal details in response to the “pop-up”, €4,900 was fraudulently withdrawn from her account, €1,006 of which was subsequently retrieved by the Bank. The Complainant maintained that the Bank was partly responsible for allowing the transactions to take place and she sought to have the Bank share the responsibility for the loss by refunding her 75% of the remaining funds which had not yet been recovered.

The Bank contended that the disputed transactions had been processed using the Complainant’s online banking number, her internet Password and her Personal Access Number in conjunction with the security code. It maintained that the Complainant was responsible for the loss because she had responded to a phishing e-mail, thereby disclosing personal confidential data to the fraudsters. The Bank took the view that the Complainant had been grossly negligent. In this instance, the Bank pointed out that a few months earlier the Complainant had answered another phishing e-mail, leading to a loss of €1,400 from her account. On that occasion, the Bank had refunded the transaction as a gesture of goodwill. The Bank indicated that numerous warnings had been issued to the Complainant that the Bank will never request her personal details, by e-mail or by text.

In considering the complaint, the Ombudsman noted that the Terms & Conditions of the account warned that all cards, devices, PINs and Passwords and other security features should not be disclosed or divulged or in any way made accessible to a third party. He also considered the provisions of the European Communities (Payment Services) Regulations 2009 noting that pursuant to this Statutory Instrument, the account holder is to bear all losses relating to an unauthorised payment transaction if such losses are incurred by virtue of the account holder having acted fraudulently or having failed intentionally or by way of gross negligence to fulfil one or more of the account holder’s obligations.

He noted the views of the High Court and the Supreme Court in Ireland, in relation to the test for gross negligence, namely “a degree of negligence where whatever duty of care may be involved has not been met by a significant margin”. Having considered all of the evidence, he took the view that the Complainant had been grossly negligent within the meaning of the 2009 Regulations, by responding to a phishing e-mail and inputting her personal details, notwithstanding a number of warnings to her by the Bank that it will never ask for her personal details by e-mail. In those circumstances, the Ombudsman did not accept that the Bank should bear any responsibility for the losses and accordingly he did not uphold the complaint.

Case Study 4

Phishing Complaint

Complainant responded to a fraudulent phishing website divulging all necessary details required to access her online banking account. On realising her error she reported the issue to the Bank, however one transaction had taken place by that time. Notwithstanding the fact that the Complainant had divulged her personal details and on the basis that the Bank had incorrectly advised the Complainant that she would receive a refund for all of her transactions the Ombudsman partly upheld the complaint and directed the Bank to refund 50% of the value of the one remaining outstanding fraudulent transaction to the Complainant.

Finding PARTLY UPHELD

In this case, the Complainant responded to a fraudulent phishing website, leading to a number of fraudulent transactions on her account. Whilst the Complainant was on the phone to the Bank to notify the Bank of the security breach, some of the transactions in question were carried out. As a result, the Bank refunded most of the transactions but it held the Complainant liable for one transaction to the value of €2,300.

The Ombudsman considered the cardholder’s responsibilities pursuant to the Terms & Conditions of the account, not to disclose personal details or security data or Passwords or PINs. He also considered the provisions of the European Communities (Payment Services) Regulations 2009 which provide for an account holder to bear all losses for unauthorised transactions if incurred by virtue of the cardholder failing, whether intentionally or by way of gross negligence, to fulfil one or more of his/her obligations.

In considering the evidence, the Ombudsman also took into account the content of the discussions between the parties when the Complainant telephoned the Bank to report the security breach. He took the view that there were significant deficiencies in the manner in which the Bank had handled the initial communication from the Complainant and indeed, for that reason the Bank had refunded three of the four fraudulent transactions which had occurred while the parties were on the phone. He also noted however from the audio evidence that the Bank’s representative had repeatedly assured the Complainant that she would receive a refund for all of the transactions if they were fraudulent. Taking into account the fact that the Bank’s representative had inadvertently misled the Complainant and failed to accurately advise her as to how the matter would be handled, the Ombudsman partly upheld the complaint and directed the Bank to refund 50% of the value of the one remaining outstanding fraudulent transaction.

Case Study 5

Mortgage Complaint

Dispute between Complainants and Bank regarding request by the Complainants to nominate a third-party account into which the Complainants might receive mortgage Tax Relief at Source. Ombudsman found that the Bank’s response to the request had been adequate and in accordance with Revenue guidelines and the complaint was not upheld.

Finding NOT UPHELD

A complaint was made to the Ombudsman in relation to a home loan mortgage where the Complainants sought to nominate an account into which they might receive mortgage TRS (Tax Relief at Source). They took the view that the Bank should facilitate their request to transfer the TRS credit into a third-party bank account.

The Bank argued that tax relief at source, since 1 January 2002, is paid by the mortgage provider, thereby avoiding a situation where the customer has to claim back the relief at the end of the tax year. It pointed out that the mortgage interest relief is given at source by the mortgage provider either in the form of a reduced monthly mortgage payment, or as a credit to the funding account. In responding to the complaint, the Bank contended that TRS on mortgage interest repayments is specific to the mortgage and the Bank had met the requirements of the Revenue Commissioners’ guidelines, by paying TRS to the nominated funding account each month.

In considering the complaint, the Ombudsman noted the relevant section of the Revenue website, noting that, in addition to the relevant regulatory and contractual obligations governing the relationship between the parties, the Bank is also obliged to adhere to Revenue requirements regarding TRS. He noted a clear link between the “funding account” and the mortgage and the pre-drawdown requirements for the establishment of a direct debit mandate for mortgage payments. In those circumstances he took the view that the Bank’s response to the request had been adequate and had correctly interpreted Revenue guidelines regarding TRS. For this reason, the complaint was not upheld.

Case Study 6

Mortgage Complaint

Complaint was about poor customer service by the Bank in relation to drawdown of funds on Complainant’s mortgage account.

Finding UPHELD

Eight years after drawing down their mortgage, the Complainants were notified by the Bank that a remaining figure of €2,000 was still available for drawdown. The Complainants noted this position and advised the Bank that they did not wish for the €2,000, when drawn down, to be paid to their solicitor’s account. In response, they were advised by the Bank that the monies could be paid directly to their own account, subject to providing a final valuation certificate. The Complainants paid for the valuation and delivered the certificate to the branch to be put into the internal post, but a few weeks later, the certificate could not be located.

Subsequently, the Complainants were notified in writing that they should submit a certificate of compliance and structural survey with the final valuation certificate, in order to drawdown the funds. However, having done so, the Complainants were then notified that an amendment certificate was required but when this additional requirement was met, the Complainants were subsequently notified that the funds had issued, not to their account, but to their former solicitor’s account. In circumstances where an issue had arisen between the Complainants and the solicitor, the Complainants’ solicitor was unwilling to pass on those funds. In the meantime, the repayments due on the mortgage increased, as a result of the additional drawdown having been applied to the account.

In responding to the complaint, the Bank referred to the note on its systems indicating that the Complainants’ solicitor was their representative for the drawdown of the funds. The Bank however accepted that the Complainants had issued specific instructions not to send the funds to their former solicitor. The Bank offered a figure of €2,700 to the Complainants with a view to resolving the complaint and offered to keep the Complainants informed in relation to any action taken by the Bank against the solicitor.

In addition to the ongoing difficulties which the Complainants had encountered, the Ombudsman noted from the audio evidence of the phonecalls that the first Complainant had been put on hold for a very considerable period of time, in the course of a phonecall which had sought to advance the drawdown of the funds.

Having considered the evidence, the Ombudsman took the view that there had been a manifest failure on the part of the Bank to offer any reasonable service to the Complainants. He was of the opinion that to resolve the complaint, a compensatory payment from the Bank to the Complainants was appropriate, comprising the original €2,000 to be drawn down, €200 as a fair approximate figure in relation to interest charged and €1,250 to reflect the very considerable stress and inconvenience which these events had caused to the Complainants. He therefore directed that the Bank issue payment to the Complainants in the sum of €3,450, to conclude.