Saturday 22 July 2017

Bank accused of 'disgraceful' move as branch counter services are axed

Bank of Ireland (stock photo)
Bank of Ireland (stock photo)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

A consumer group has accused Bank of Ireland of "disgraceful" service as it rolls out cuts to customer counter services in branches.

Large numbers of branches will now only offer the option of self-service machines for lodging and withdrawing cash.

They won't have counters open, and foreign currency exchange and coin transaction services won't be available.

Other branches will have morning-only counter services.

The move has come as a result of a decision by Bank of Ireland to stop its staff handling cash at counters at more than 100 branches.

The bank confirmed this means more than one-in-three branches will no longer accept cash or coins at the counter from the end of this year.

It denied the move was merely to cut costs. It claimed just 3pc of transactions in branches are done at counters.

The bank came in for fierce criticism in 2015 when the Irish Independent revealed customers were barred from withdrawing less than €700 in cash over the counter.

A bank spokesman said it already had a number of cash-free branches, and now wanted to convert more branches to what it calls an "advice and self-service" model.

The bank has 250 branches, the largest network in the State. It wants to have 100 cash-free branches by the end of the year.

Customers who need cash will be able to lodge or withdraw cash from self-service machines in the affected branches.

However, they will not be able to withdraw sums of more than €1,300, or transact foreign currency and coin services within these branches.

Michael Kilcoyne, of the Consumers' Association, accused the bank of ignoring its responsibilities to customers.

"It is moving more and more away from its customers. The service to ordinary customers, the people who built the bank, is disgraceful," he said.

Mr Kilcoyne, who is deputy chairman of the consumer lobby group, said online banking was not an option for many people outside major cities as they did not have adequate broadband services.

Others were uncomfortable with using electric services in branches, he said. The move has also been criticised by Age Action.

A spokesman for Bank of Ireland said that when transaction levels in a branch dropped below a certain level the easiest decision was to close it. "However, we don't believe that is the correct approach. When we look at trends over time within a branch's catchment area and see a consistent decrease in counter activity, we reconfigure the branch to support how our customers are using it," he said.

He said only 3pc of customers' transactions were conducted over the counter - 97pc took place through other channels.

Already Bank of Ireland has stopped offering counter services at 35 locations.

By mid-August a further 66 locations would have moved to the "advice and self-service" model, the bank added.

Meanwhile, Permanent TSB has become the latest bank to cut deposit interest rates. Rates will fall as low as 0.02pc on some accounts from next week.

Irish Independent

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