The chief executive of Permanent TSB has defended changes the bank has made to charges on old current accounts.

In January, the bank made it more difficult for thousands of its customers with legacy current accounts to qualify for free banking, as well reducing interest paid and adding new overdraft fees. 

Addressing the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Jeremy Masding said the old current accounts are not economically viable and are "out of kilter" with the wider market and the changes address this issue. 

"In this context, the evolving, and ongoing, changes to the bank's customer offering is reflective of the fact that the banking world is changing," he said. 

"In particular, both customers' and regulators' needs are changing, and we have to change with them. That's going to require constant and dynamic changes to all dimensions of the Bank's proposition," he stated. 

Mr Masding told the committee that there had been no material change to the number of the bank's customers that have been caught up in the tracker mortgage controversy. 

He said that it had originally told the Central Bank in 2017 that 1,979 accounts were eligible for redress and compensation.  

"That figure rose by four accounts to 1,983 in the following months as we completed the programme of work.," he said. 

"To date, we have completed redress and compensation for a total of 1,950 accounts - 99% of the total. 14 customers have chosen not to accept the payments at this point," he said.

"The remaining 19 accounts relate to account holders who, we believe, have left the jurisdiction and, despite the use of international search agents, we have been unable to locate or contact these customers," he added.

Mr Masding said the key issue which has been identified as being a cause of the controversy was that the bank failed to disclose fully to customers that their request to break early from a fixed rate product would result in the loss of a right to return to a tracker rate mortgage which they enjoyed so long as they completed the fixed rate term.

But he said that during the bank's work, it found no evidence that the failure to provide this disclosure was "planned or deliberate".

In relation to the bank's efforts to reduce the level of non-performing loans on its balance sheet, and the sale of portfolios of non-performing loans, Mr  Masding said PTSB had provided absolute certainty to its customers about the servicing arrangements on their mortgages into the future.

"At all times, we undertake these activities in good faith, doing our very best to deliver fair and certain customer outcomes as we fully appreciate the sensitive nature of NPL sales," he told the committee. 

He said the bank's bad loan level, at 10%, remains about three times the European average. 

As a result, the bank CEO said it will continue to work to reduce the proportion of non-performing loans on its balance sheet over the coming months.  

He said he could not rule out further loan portfolio sales to so called 'vulture funds' and said they continue to look at all options for NPL reduction including loan sales.  

Mr Masding said it would take over two to three years to get the rate down to the European average of 3.5%.

He said he shares the concerns recently expressed by the Governor of the Central Bank about the Sinn Fein proposed "No Consent, No Sale Bill", which would require the consent of mortgage holders before their loans could be sold to so-called "vulture funds". 

"Our concern is that this legislation will make it more difficult for banks to repair and strengthen their balance sheets, to deepen funding sources such as securitisation, to attract efficient capital, to increase competition or to reduce interest rates in the mortgage market," the CEO said.

On the topic of mortgage interest rates, Mr Masding said Permanent TSB had completed a comprehensive overhaul of its fixed rates for new customers, and its next priority is to review the pricing and product strategy for existing customers.