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Banks deny any wrongdoing over use of customers' debit information

BANKS have denied they are doing anything wrong after they were accused of harvesting customers' direct debit information to market products to them.

The Professional Insurance Brokers Association (PIBA) accused banks of aggressively targeting consumers by monitoring their accounts and transactions.

PIBA chief executive Diarmuid Kelly said banks were trying to get people to sign up for the banks' life insurance products if, for example, they noticed a direct debit being set up for life insurance with another company.

Mr Kelly referred to a recent report from the Data Protection Commissioner that found banks were snooping into direct debits transactions.

The Data Protection Commission report said: "In several institutions our investigations revealed marketing to customers on the basis of information contained in their direct debits, such as a monthly payment to another financial institution or a payment to the life branch of an insurance company."

Mr Kelly said PIBA had raised this issue with the Central Bank over the past number of years.

"The Central Bank should issue a circular to all credit institutions prohibiting this practice.

"It previously advised that this practice was not prohibited by the Consumer Protection Code, especially if the contact was made under the unsolicited contact rules of the code."

He said his organisation has continuously indicated that this response was unsatisfactory. Banks were in a privileged position and were abusing their position by aggressively targeting clients, the PIBA boss said.

"Our members advise that this practice is widespread at present."

Asked to comment on the claims, a spokesman for the Irish Banking Federation insisted banks were not breaking any rules.

"Banks are fully cognisant of their obligations under the Consumer Protection Code and data protection legislation and have procedures in place to operate in accordance with them," he said.

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