| 13.6°C Dublin

Banking Culture Board 'is waste of time' - campaigner



Consumer campaigner Brendan Burgess. Photo: Frank McGrath

Consumer campaigner Brendan Burgess. Photo: Frank McGrath

Consumer campaigner Brendan Burgess. Photo: Frank McGrath

A LEADING consumer advocate has questioned the usefulness of the Banking Culture Board.

The board was set up last year in the wake of the tracker-mortgage scandal in a bid to get banks to improve how they treat customers.

But consumer campaigner Brendan Burgess claimed it is a waste of time and was actually hindering improvements in banking.

In the last two weeks alone EBS and Haven were found to have overcharged another 1,100 tracker customers.

And this month AIB started adjusting mortgage accounts of 6,000 customers who maintain they should have had a tracker, but failed to write to them to explain what it was doing before making changes.

All banks have come under fire for turning down mortgage applicants who are receiving State supports.

Lenders have been accused by politicians of "profiteering" from the payment breaks granted to 62,500 homeowners.

And there are fears of a second mortgage crisis.

There has been no public comment from the Irish Banking Culture Board on any of this.

The board is headed up by former Appeal Court judge Mr Justice John Hedigan.

"The Banking Culture Board is not just a waste of time, it's worse than that," Mr Burgess said.

He claimed the cost of running it will be passed on to customers in terms of higher charges and interest.

"Everyone knows what needs to be done. Mortgage rates need to be cut. This board is an excuse for the bankers and for the Government to pretend that they are doing something, when they are doing nothing.

"So it actually will hinder improvements in banking," Mr Burgess said.

The five retail banks reacted to the tracker-mortgage scandal by setting up the board as they faced the prospect of politicians and regulators taking action to force changes in culture on them.

The 14-member board was officially set up in April.

It comprises five senior bankers and seven non-banking members, including consumer advocates, business representatives and academics.

Responding to Mr Burgess's criticism, the Irish Banking Culture Board said it is an independent entity where the banks are in the minority.

It was established because banking culture in Ireland needs to change. "The alternative is to do nothing and that is not an option."

It said that it is non-regulatory, and is to work with a wide range of stakeholders in the banking industry to promote an environment where ethical behaviour lies at the heart of banking, fair customer outcomes are achieved, staff are supported, and trust in the banks is restored.

It said that it was working in a considered manner to effect real and lasting change and this will take time.

The board did not reveal what it costs to run it.

Earlier this year former Bank of Ireland executive Marion Kelly was appointed chief executive of the board after an open competition.

Irish Independent