Monday 26 September 2016

Bank of Ireland accused of breach of regulator's rules

Published 06/11/2015 | 02:30

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan

Bank of Ireland has been accused of breaching Central Bank rules by attempting to impose severe restrictions on cash transactions at counters in branches.

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It came as the bank was called on to drop its new cash rules for branches for all customers, and not just what it regards as vulnerable customers.

The bank climbed down after the intervention of Finance Minister Michael Noonan and said it would not restrict cash dealing over the counter for what it calls "vulnerable" customers.

Failing to provide assistance for what the Central Bank calls vulnerable customers is prohibited under the statutory Consumer Protection Code.

Financial expert Frank Conway said there were a number of categories of vulnerable customer, as defined by the Central Bank under the Consumer Protection Code.

These include people capable of making decisions but their particular life stage or circumstances should be taken into account when assessing suitability - such as age, poor credit history, low income, serious illness, bereaved etc.

It also includes those capable of making decisions but who require reasonable accommodation in doing so - such as those whose hearing or vision is impaired, their first language is not English, or they have poor literacy skills. This can include technology, Mr Conway said.

He said: "Bank of Ireland has just steam-rolled its way over these with total lack of consideration for their customers' needs."

The code states that where a regulated entity has identified that a consumer is vulnerable, it must provide them with "reasonable arrangements and/or assistance".

And it emerged on NewsTalk that many bank branches have no staff to man counters on certain days of the week, with a number closing at lunchtime.

A spokesman for Bank of Ireland said: "Yes, there are some branches that have counter cash service on certain days of the week. That has been the case for some time now."

The spokesperson added that the bank does not comment on regulatory matters.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank said Bank of Ireland has promised to accommodate and help vulnerable customers.

The bank came under sustained criticism from a range of bodies after this newspaper revealed its plans to restrict teller-assisted withdrawals to €700 or more.

The bank also plans to ban lodgements over the counter for less than €3,000.

Irish Independent

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