The “despicable” treatment of 500,000 Irish banking customers by exiting KBC and Ulster Bank must be urgently addressed by the Finance Minister and the Central Bank, according to Rural Independent TDs.
The group of TDs is accusing the government of facilitating a model of banking collusion in Ireland, resulting in the “despicable treatment of customers” who they say are being “fleeced by the highest banking fees and interest rates in the eurozone”.
Speaking on the topic today (Monday 16th May), the Leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath stated:
“Both KBC and Ulster Bank are giving their combined 500,000 current account customers a narrow and strict six-month notice period to close or transfer their accounts as both banks exit the Irish market.”
“This dictate from both banks demonstrates their shabby treatment of existing customers, many of whom are finding it extremely difficult to obtain replacement banking services.”
“For example, many existing KBC and Ulster Bank customers are informing us about extreme difficulties in making in-person appointments with either bank, due to staff shortages or limited appointment availability.”
“The issues are particularly difficult for under-pressure farmers, who have been banking mainly with Ulster Bank, or elderly customers, who are trying to transfer. Furthermore, even after transferring to a new bank, customers are being forced to wait for very long time periods before they can avail of any credit or overdraft facilities. This is having a tremendous impact on farmers and small businesses.”
“Both banks cannot be allowed to leave their customers high and dry. Immediate action must be taken to end this chaotic situation, which will only worsen in the coming months.”
“Both banks should be barred from leaving the Irish marketplace until every single customer has been facilitated with a smooth transfer of their banking requirements. For this to occur, we believe a dedicated and streamlined banking transfer unit must be established and paid for by all the banks.”
“Despite both these banks confirming their Irish exit in early 2021, the government and the Central Bank have completely failed to ensure that a smooth account transfer unit has been established.”
“For instance, the remaining domestic institutions – AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB – have not bothered to add extra staff to cope with account switches, according to the Bank Workers Union. This highlights the contempt with which all Irish banks are treating existing and new customers, as all three banks have agreed to acquire billions in large lending portfolios from their departing competitors, but the 500,000 customers with current and deposit accounts have been largely left aground and helpless to manage their transition independently.”
“Unfortunately, this government is allowing banks to treat customers appallingly. Further proof of this is demonstrated in the average fixed interest rate mortgages of 2.6 per cent with variable rates averaging 3.64, compared with a euro-zone average rate of 1.46 per cent.”
“Thus, we are again calling on the Minister for Finance and the government to emerge from the shadow of the banking lobby, to show transparency and establish actionable measures to protect all bank customers, especially the existing KBC and Ulster Bank customers. Additionally, they should finally address the ‘Irish banking collusion and the structural duopoly,’ by urgently creating greater banking competition within the Irish marketplace,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.