Admissions overnight from Westpac, reported in today's Herald Sun that the bank had unfairly denied customers a special fixed rate home loan offer that had been advertised in December 2008, sending a warning to Australian borrowers to shop around and ensure that you are really getting the best deal from your bank before committing to a loan.
The Herald Sun report claims to have received several complaints from readers who had tried unsuccessfully to secure the offer, a Westpac 4.99% fixed rate home loan. Given the loan was marketed in the wake of a series of RBA rate cuts since September last year, this certainly would have been a popular offer among those looking to refinance an existing loan to lock in a more attractive rate. Applicants were allegedly told by Westpac staff that the loan would be subject to rate fluctuations at any time, even after customers had signed loan documentation, bringing into question the legitimacy of a marketing campaign offering the 4.99 per cent rate fixed over three years. One customer told the Herald Sun that he and his wife were offered a rate of only 5.49 per cent after applying for the special rate well before the December 19 deadline.
A spokesperson for Westpac, David Lording apologised and admitted that an error was made in that particular customer's case but has written the issue off as a purely administrative error due to the bank being inundated with applications which created a processing backlog.
The Herald Sun warns that banks and other financial institutions often insert special clauses in loan contracts so that they can vary the terms and conditions affecting borrowers. So the message to prospective borrowers or those looking to refinance an existing loan is clear; ensure that you are aware of the conditions around your entitlement to a discounted fixed rate or a similar special offer. Ask plenty of tough questions of your banker, read the fine print and possibly enlist the assistance of a mortgage broker to help you get the best deal.
Visit www.HelpMeChoose.com.au if you want to ensure that you really are getting the best deal on your current home loan.