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AIB buckles to pressure and puts off moves to impose fees

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AIB chief executive Colin Hunt

AIB chief executive Colin Hunt

AIB chief executive Colin Hunt

AIB has caved in and suspended the planned introduction of maintenance and transactions fees for customers who have been able to avoid them up to now.

It comes as Bank of Ireland said it would temporarily close 101 branches during the pandemic and redeploy staff to larger branches and contact centres to deal with a surge in those needing Covid-19 financial support.

AIB was accused of an "alarming lack of empathy" when it said it was forging ahead with plans to change its fees and charges regime for customers.

At the moment, customers who keep a minimum balance of €2,500 per quarter can avoid fees and a quarterly maintenance fee of €4.

But this was to change at the end of May, meaning that an ATM withdrawal fee of 35c would apply and an over-the-counter transaction cost of 39c would apply, no matter how much money is kept in the current account.

Some calculations indicate this would cost customers between €100 and €150 a year.

Consumer representative on the Irish Banking Culture Board, Padraic Kissane, said the move to force more current account customers to pay fees displayed "an alarming lack of empathy".

However, AIB has now performed a U-turn.

Customers who received correspondence from the bank could disregard the changes to fees and charges advised, it said.

It added that AIB and EBS branches remained open to customers, except for those locations on campuses that closed following advice from the health authorities.

AIB's chief executive Colin Hunt said the bank recognised the extraordinary pressure on families, individuals, businesses and communities as a result of the sudden disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"All AIB's staff and systems are focused on supporting our customers and economy through this unprecedented crisis. To that end, we have in place a range of robust measures designed to buttress customers against the enormous challenges now facing us," Dr Hunt said.

But Bank of Ireland is to temporarily close 101 branches during the pandemic and redeploy staff to larger branches and contact centres to deal with a surge in those who need financial support in light of the coronavirus crisis.

It said the branches closing were mainly non-counter ones, which offer advice on the likes of mortgages. Footfall had fallen heavily at these branches.

Bank of Ireland said 161 branches nationwide would be open as normal, with 148 of these providing a full service to customers, including counter services for cash, coin and cheque services.

It comes as KBC Bank said it had set up a process for people seeking loan and mortgage payment breaks due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bank confirmed it had made all the necessary changes to its operations, systems and protocols. It has been processing applications since Saturday.

Meanwhile, mortgage campaigner David Hall accused the banks of announcing the mortgage break plans before staff were fully briefed and banking systems had been updated.

And Mr Hall, of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, also criticised the banks and the Central Bank for failing to change the rules so that interest will not be charged to people who avail of the three-month payment break.

Irish Independent