Monday 29 August 2016

Fury with banks as 40,000 customers complain

Published 13/12/2015 | 02:30

CONCERNED: Consumer chief Dermot Jewell ‘not surprised’
CONCERNED: Consumer chief Dermot Jewell ‘not surprised’

Customer fury over exorbitant fees, abysmal customer service, sloppy administration and the dehumanisation of daily business in our banks is behind a record 40,354 complaints by current account holders this year.

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Just over half of the complaints to the Central Bank (22,135) concerned grievances and anger over the administration and processing of current accounts - including widespread errors in direct debits or accounts being erroneously opened or closed.

But there is also a rising tide of anger about the lack of efficiency and basic civility with more than 16,000 other account-holders complaining about how the banks now deal with customers, and how much they charge for basic services.

Banking fees (9,245), customer service (4,917), communication with customers (1,128) and bank policy (880) have also infuriated consumers, while another 2,049 consumers had serious issues including non-receipt of bank statements and other important correspondence going missing in the post.

The complaints logged during the first half of 2015 alone and published in the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Bulletin last month, represents the largest ever number of grievances logged by bank customers since the Central Bank began compiling complaints received by financial institutions in July 2013.

Since then, the number of complaints by current account holders has almost doubled, from 26,795 logged between July and December 2013 to 40,354 received from January to the end of June this year.

Dermot Jewell, CEO of the Consumers Association of Ireland, said the sheer number of complaints by ordinary customers over their current accounts reveals widespread anger by the very people who bailed out the banks in the first place.

He believes the number of official complaints to the banks represents just the tip of the iceberg and that most unhappy bank customers are quietly fuming on their own because they find engaging with the banks futile.

"A lot of people have just given up," he told the Sunday Independent.

But he said they have legitimate complaints after the banks moved towards "free" online banking several years ago as an incentive that has now been replaced with abysmal customer service and bank fees for all.

"For example, AIB charges more than €204 a year in basic fees for current account holders who do not maintain a minimum balance, followed by Bank of Ireland at €138.80 per year for basic fees," Mr Jewell said.

But it's not just the fees that have left consumers enraged, he believes.

"It's next to impossible to phone your local branch now and if you do visit your branch you'll be in a queue with 20 or 30 people and one teller," he said.

And the move towards online banking means people are simply doing the banks' work for them at the expense of their own time, he said.

"There has been a slow build-up to make people spend more of their own time and money to do their own banking," he said.

"It's just not good enough. You can't talk to an individual anymore, you can't access the bank by phone and you have to set aside a time to visit a branch," he said.

Sunday Independent

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