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Woman (74) wins age bias case over refusal of car loan

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

Original Source by ALISON HEALY A 74-YEAR-OLD woman who has won an age discrimination case against Ulster Bank has encouraged all older people to challenge discrimination when they encounter it. Phyllis Fahey from Rathfarnham, Dublin was refused a car loan from Ulster Bank’s Maynooth branch in 2005, when she was 70 years of age. The Equality Tribunal found she had been discriminated against because of her age and ordered the bank to pay her €2,000 in compensation for the upset and humiliation experienced. Ms Fahey’s victory was described as “hugely significant” by the Equality Authority, which backed her action. Its chief executive Niall Crowley said financial institutions must now review their policies to ensure that they were not discriminatory. He said allegations of discrimination by financial institutions accounted for 10 per cent of Equality Authority case files under the Equal Status Acts last year. Ms Fahey contacted Ulster Bank in Maynooth in February 2005 to take out a car loan of €6,000. She had been a customer at the branch for 10 years and had a substantial amount of money on deposit in her account. She had no other borrowings with Ulster Bank and both her and her husband’s pensions were paid directly into the Maynooth branch. She said a bank official told her it was bank policy not to grant loans to anybody over the age of 65. She questioned this and said the official was apologetic, but that those were the bank’s rules. Ulster Bank denied that Ms Fahey was told the bank had a policy of refusing loans to persons over 65 years of age. It said there was a misunderstanding between the official and Ms Fahey. However, the Equality Tribunal found that Ms Fahey was “a very credible witness” and said it was satisfied that she was left in no doubt that her application was refused on the basis of her age. It found that the bank did not adhere to its stated loan application procedures in this case and Ms Fahey was not invited for an interview to discuss her application. An Ulster Bank spokesman said the bank was disappointed at the outcome of the case. “Ulster Bank would like to confirm that there was no upper age limit in 2005 in relation to applications for a personal loan. This remains the case.” Ms Fahey said she was “very proud” of the victory. “I was very nervous taking on the bank and it took me three and a half years but I just went in there and told the truth. Banks are just people after all.” She said she saw discrimination against older people every day of the week. “This is happening in every walk of life and I would say to people, ‘Don’t be afraid. Take them on’. The lack of humanity towards older people, particularly people in care, is appalling.” She subsequently got a car loan from the credit union. “They said to me ‘How much do you want?’ and gave me a voucher for petrol,” she recalled. Ms Fahey said she had not received the €2,000 compensation yet but it would come in useful as she was taking a cruise in the Bahamas next week. “That’s what people like me are doing now. We are full of life.” Age Action also welcomed the victory and said older people with good credit records were frequently refused by financial institutions. “Today’s ruling means another obstacle has been removed for older people,” Eamon Timmins, Age Action spokesman, said. Banks including AIB, Bank of Ireland and NIB said yesterday that they treated loan applications from those over 65 in the same way as applications from all other customers. © 2008 The Irish Times

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Global Impact:

Republic of Ireland


Age Action, discrimination