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Bank of Ireland and Ulster fare worst in UK consumer study


BANK of Ireland and Ulster Bank are considered the worst banks in the UK by consumers, according to a new study.

Bank of Ireland came last in the study of 21 banks and Ulster Bank came second last. Bank of Ireland had a consumer satisfaction rating of just 41pc, a full 50pc lower than the leading bank.

It performed particularly poorly in relation to customer service, regular communication, clarity of statements and branch availability.

Ulster Bank didn't fare much better, with a 45pc rating in the study by British consumer publication 'Which', blamed in part on the computer faults it suffered from this March and last summer. Its parent Royal Bank of Scotland also did badly, coming fifth last. All three scores fell well below the average 62pc customer satisfaction rating.

Britain's biggest high street banks Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Santander also fell below the market average. All four did particularly badly in terms of how they dealt with customer queries and complaints.

Banks focused on the internet did best. The leaderboard was led by online and telephone bank First Direct – even though its parent HSBC did much worse – and internet bank Smile came second. Mortgage provider The One Account came third and troubled "ethical bank" The Co-Operative Bank came fourth.

The negative findings for Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank follow swathes of bad publicity for both in the UK.

Earlier this year thousands of UK homeowners saw steep increases in mortgages taken out with Bank of Ireland, even though some had taken out lifetime tracker deals linked to the Bank of England's base interest rate – which has remained at a historic low of 0.5pc for the last four years.

The hikes affected 13,500 customers, or 7pc of the bank's UK mortgage market. These people saw their mortgage rate jump 2.49pc above the Bank of England rate, increasing to 3.99pc from October.

The bank said it was invoking "special conditions" that allowed it to increase its tracker margin in the UK, but different Irish contracts forced it to retain cheap tracker rates in this country.

Ulster Bank's reputation among consumers has been hurt by branch closures, in addition to its long-running financial woes. It is parent RBS's only loss-making operation.

The bank will have closed about 20 of its Northern branches by 2014. Eleven have already been shut, and the rest will come from its remaining network of 79 branches in the North. A total of 350 redundancies among its UK staff have already been announced, alongside 600 in the Republic.

Both banks are dependent on the British market. Deposits in Bank of Ireland from UK customers were €30bn at the end of 2012, almost as much as the €35bn from Irish customers.

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