Customers in Ireland have most problems with banks
Irish customers experience more problems with their banks than any other country in the world, new research has found.
Irish banking customers, along with those living in Denmark and Spain, reported more incidents with banks per customer than in any of the 42 countries surveyed in a global banking study of more than 32,000 people by accounting giant Ernst & Young (EY).
The Irish were also among the most dissatisfied in the world with how banks resolved their complaints – half of people surveyed said complaints had not been resolved to their satisfaction.
The results come just weeks after the country's banks were named and shamed by the Financial Services Ombudsman for the first time for their poor handling of customer complaints.
The banks publicly identified by the Financial Services Ombudsman included AIB, Permanent TSB, Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland, Bank of Scotland and Danske Bank.
The damning findings in this latest research are particularly surprising because they contradict global trends.
On average, the survey found, confidence in the banking industry is on the rise, trust in banks is high and most customers are satisfied enough to recommend their main banking provider.
In Ireland, by contrast, 62pc said confidence had fallen in the past year.
Loan application refusals and charges for making a purchase were the biggest sources of complaints.
Transparency about fees and guidance on how to avoid them was the third most common source of dissatisfaction.
The Irish results were surprising, said EY financial services director Patricia Stack, given that Ireland's banks have been investing heavily in customer service of late. "Consumer confidence globally has gone up but the results for Ireland are less positive, with confidence and trust levels decreasing the most since 2012," said Ms Stack.
"Banks have some way to go to improve this – for example, increasing transparency around fees and charges. Additionally, improving how they deal with resolving problems or complaints will be critical if banks are to continue to win confidence and build trust."
"The high level of customer complaints is a strong signal that banks need to get better at communicating their fees and charges with their customers.
"The good news is that solving a problem or addressing a complaint creates a critical customer interaction, which, if done well, can actually increase a customer's business," said Ms Stack.
Customers are increasingly on the move, the survey also found. Globally, half of respondents had opened or closed at least one product in the past year and two fifths planned to in the coming year.
Of the 60pc who were not planning to close or move their accounts, confidence in their provider was not the motivator. Nearly a fifth said it was just too difficult or time-consuming to change.
"Bank customers are not being actively retained; they simply remain with their current provider through inertia and are therefore vulnerable to competitors.
Meanwhile, new types of financial services providers with new technologies and customised services are penetrating the global marketplace and cannot be ignored" said Ms Stack.