The Ombudsman’s office received 5,395 new complaints last year and closed a total of 6,193, an increase of 35% on 2019
It is the second year running that Ulster Bank has headed the list of financial services or pensions providers who had three or more complaints upheld against them by the FSPO.
Last week Ulster Bank was hit with a record €38m fine by the Central Bank for regulatory breaches arising from its treatment of tracker mortgage customers.
Ulster Bank is currently planning the wind down of its operations here, after parent NatWest announced last month that it is to exit.
Permanent TSB was the institution that had the next highest number of complaints upheld by the FSPO, at 18, followed by Bank of Ireland with 12 and Irish Life Assurance with nine.
The information is contained in the FSPO’s Overview of Complaints for 2020, which was published this morning.
Overall, the Ombudsman’s office received 5,395 new complaints last year and closed a total of 6,193, up 35% on the previous year despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
600 of these were related in some way to the pandemic, including complaints around business interruption insurance which were given priority.
By the end of the year, 305 of the Covid complaints had been closed.
Complainants benefitted from compensation, redress and settlements to the total value of €6.34m.
However, Mr Deering said there are many consumers who do not make a complaint to the FSPO themselves who, nevertheless, benefit from the work of his office.
“This was particularly evident, in 2020, when more than 7,000 consumers received rectification or compensation on foot of a number of decisions I issued,” he said, including one AIB tracker mortgage decision that impacted thousands of customers.
“This was because several financial service providers applied the direction given in my decisions to other customers with similar circumstances,” Mr Deering said.
“This is a practice I particularly welcome. It has been publicly recorded that the value of this redress to such other customers, in such circumstances, exceeded €300m,” he added.
Of the new complaints received, 56% related to banking products, with mortgages making up around half of those.
This included 492 new tracker mortgage related cases and by the end of the year the FSPO had 1,200 tracker complaints outstanding.
“However, it can be seen from the tracker related decisions published that a significant number of tracker mortgage complaints continue to be not upheld,” the report says.
“Some complainants continue to have unrealistic expectations, believing that their desire to have a tracker interest rate provides a basis for requiring their bank to grant them one,” it stated.
Among the unsuccessful arguments put forward by complainants in relation to tracker mortgages are ‘I have a constitutional right to a tracker mortgage’ and ‘my sister or cousin was offered a tracker mortgage,’ the report stated.
A third of the other overall complaints related to insurance, with 6% connected to investment products and 4% to do with pension schemes.
Nearly 3,000 complaints were closed using mediation through the dispute resolution service, while a further 494 were concluded through legally binding decisions, up from 439 a year earlier.
Among the noteworthy cases where a settlement was reached, avoiding the need for a legally binding decision, was the payment of €15,000 to two brothers, following the sale of a secured property.
Parties to a claim arising from a critical illness policy that amounted to €85,000 also agreed to the payment of the money.
Agreement was also reached to allow the voluntary surrender of a property and to write-off any residual debt following the sale, potentially worth €105,000.
A company also received €25,000 in relation to an application made for debt restructuring.