THOUSANDS of customers of Danske Bank are set to be denied access to their money after the bank said it was closing their current accounts from today.
The bank has confirmed that 15,000 current accounts are to be "terminated" and the majority of customers who hold these accounts have yet to shut them down and switch to a new one.
Up to 10,000 people could find their funds frozen as they have failed to set up a new account with another bank. Danske said in October that it was closing its retail operations here.
Large numbers of those who have already started the switching process are also set to be locked out of their accounts before the new accounts can be set up.
A spokeswoman for the bank said: "Yes, some will be locked out of their accounts."
The bank said it was closing the current accounts today but it later conceded that it would allow these customers to use their debit/ATM cards over the weekend.
But by Monday, the accounts will no longer operate.
Customers who contacted the Irish Independent claimed the whole shut-down of Danske's retail operations was being handled in a "chaotic and shambolic" fashion.
Permanent TSB, to which large numbers are switching, is so worried about it that it is making arrangements to hand out €500 to each customer who has already signed up to switch from Danske but have chosen a date later this month for the tranfer to take effect.
Executives at Permanent TSB fear customers moving from Danske will have their funds and accounts frozen before the switches take place.
Under Central Bank rules, consumers are supposed to be able to agree a date for the transfer of accounts with their old and new banks and not to have it imposed upon them.
But banking sources accused Danske of imposing the shut-down for the first tranche of current accounts too hastily, even though many customers had nominated different dates for the transfer.
Irate customers said Danske was not answering phones, with others claiming the shut-down of its retail operations was being badly handled.
Customers complained that the letters they received about the closure deadlines arrived in December and the Christmas period, making it difficult to put new banking arrangements in place.
And they accused the bank of not doing any TV, radio or newspaper advertising to remind people of the various close-down deadlines.
Another customer claimed that Danske had initially given a longer period for customers to shut their accounts and find new banks when it first announced its intention to close its personal banking operation here last October.
Danske, whose parent company in Denmark yesterday reported profits before tax from core activities of €1.5bn for last year, defended its handling of the shut-down.
It said it had written to customers in tranches, setting out when accounts would be closed.
"The first tranche of letters issued in early December to customers with only a single product with Danske, ie a current account, a savings account or a credit card," a spokeswoman said.
She said customers with current accounts and savings accounts were given two months' notice of the closure of their account, with a deadline of February 7 set for the first tranche of terminations.
Another set of customers has until Friday, February 21, to put alternative banking arrangements in place. Customers with credit cards have until March 7.
The spokeswoman added: "Where a customer has not yet taken action, their accounts will be terminated on February 7 in accordance with the terms of the account."
The bank confirmed that it had 15,000 current account customers, but 9,000 people had yet to close their accounts.
"We encourage customers to note the timelines referred to in their individual letters to ensure that they have sufficient time to effect their preferred option of closing or transferring their accounts to alternative institution," the bank said.
The Central Bank said Danske had given the notice to customers that it was required to provide.