2019 saw the expansion of the Central Bank’s regulatory remit to previously unregulated entities, the introduction of consumer focused reforms and the publication of the Central Bank’s final report on the Tracker Mortgage Examination (the Examination).
We examine these developments and some proposals for 2020.
The commencement of the Consumer Protection (Regulation of Credit Servicing Firms) (Amendment) Act 2018 (the 2018 Act) in January 2019 marked the beginning of a consumer focused year. The 2018 Act aims to restrict the ability of purchasers of loan books to avoid regulation under the credit servicing regime.
The 2018 Act expanded the definition of credit servicing firms to include those who hold the legal title to credit granted under a credit agreement, those that determine the overall strategy for the management and administration of a portfolio of credit agreements and those that have control over key decisions on those portfolios.
Entities that fall within scope of the definition are now required to be authorised by the Central Bank or alternatively, be passporting these services into Ireland on the basis of an authorisation from another EEA competent authority in the EEA to provide credit.
For further information on the credit servicing requirements please see our earlier briefing here which discusses the impact in greater detail.
In September 2019, the Central Bank announced the inclusion of new rules requiring financial intermediaries to disclose their commission arrangements to consumers. The rules come into effect on 31 March 2020. They will amend the Consumer Protection Code and introduce greater transparency for consumers around the commission arrangements in place between financial intermediaries, such as brokers and financial advisors, and product producers, such as banks and insurance firms. The main objective of the new rules is to significantly reduce any risk of conflicts of interest emerging that may impact consumers.
In addition, intermediaries will no longer be allowed to call themselves ‘independent’ if they receive a commission for the provision of consumer advice. Certain hospitality and non-monetary benefits will also be prohibited to ensure that the best interests of the consumer are protected.
The obligations imposed should become central to any future considerations of financial institutions, brokers and financial advisers. Further information on the new requirements can be found here.
Tracker Mortgage Report
In July 2018, the Central Bank published its final report on its Examination which began in December 2015.
The Examination was described by the Central Bank as being “the largest and most complex consumer protection review we have ever undertaken”. The supervisory phase of the Examination has concluded, however, the matter is far from conclusion from a regulatory perspective. While approximately 40,100 of those customers affected have been compensated by mortgage lenders, PTSB remains the only bank to have come out the other side of the Central Bank’s Administrative Sanctions Procedure dealing with its findings from the Examination.
The Central Bank is currently conducting further investigations into the conduct by various mortgage lenders that led to the Examination.
2020 will see further progress and developments in this area. A more detailed overview of what has occurred to date can be accessed here.
As the regulatory landscape continues to change, it is crucial for businesses to ensure their business strategies and practices are in line with evolving regulatory requirements. 2020 is likely to see a greater emphasis on responsibility and accountability for both firms and individuals.
The Senior Executive Accountability Regime, anticipated to be introduced by the Central Bank (Amendment) Bill in 2020, will increase accountability of individuals and transparency within the financial services sector. It will require certain regulated financial service providers to clearly set out where the responsibility and decision making within their firm lies and will enable the Central Bank to hold individuals responsible for wrong-doing, without requiring a finding against the regulated entity itself.
The Irish Government has also recently decided to draft legislation to regulate entities offering personal contract plans, hire purchase agreements and similar credit type agreements with consumers. It is proposed that entities offering these arrangements will be required to be authorised with the Central Bank as retail credit firms.
If you would like to discuss any of the points highlighted, please contact a member of the Financial Regulation team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.