Wednesday 18 October 2017

We feel pain again as bank charges soar

BANK of Ireland's latest move is a perfect example of just how easily lenders have pulled the wool over consumers' eyes.

It has all the hallmarks of what we've come to expect from banks -- it's complicated, seemingly innocuous and ultimately pricey for customers.

It took several phone calls between the bank and the Irish Independent just to clarify what the change actually meant -- so how can consumers be expected to keep up?

Banks tripped over themselves to entice consumers into taking out credit cards during the boom, with long interest-free periods and free gifts. But today the size and scope of charges associated with Ireland's most commonly used credit cards are astonishing -- never mind the rake of current account fees.

What's particularly cynical about BoI's latest decision is that stockbrokers are singing this particular lender's praises all around the world right now -- its share price is at the highest level in nearly three years. AIB and PTSB also saw big gains recently. The Irish banking sector, it seems, is slowly but surely returning to robust health.

But these gains are being made at consumers' expense. We now pay out an average of €100 a year each, or about €260 per family, on bank charges. There's been an onslaught of price increases since BoI announced it would charge for the use of a current account in 2012 and other institutions followed suit.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to lowering these costs -- especially as there is such a shockingly uncompetitive personal banking sector.

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