Sunday 21 January 2018

Numbers moving banks hits a new low as just 0.6pc switch

Picture posed
Picture posed

Sean Duffy

FEWER than one out of every hundred Irish consumers switched banks last year, according to the Central Bank's latest Consumer Protection Bulletin.

Just 0.06pc of all current account holders decided to switch lenders in the first six months of this year, with just 3,600 people changing providers.

There are 5.1 million current accounts in Ireland at present.

Added up the value held in Irish current accounts was €22.1bn in the first half of this year, according to the statistics - a rise of €5.9bn compared to 2013.

The combined balance in current accounts has risen in every period since 2013, providing an indication of the strong economic recovery over the past three years.

But the number of people switching providers is now at the lowest level since the Central Bank began its monitoring of the process back in 2013.

The Central Bank's Switching Code was introduced in October of 2010, and aims to provide consumers with more choice by allowing them to switch current account provider with greater ease.

There are currently just six banks offering current accounts to consumers; traditional lenders AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and Permanent TSB are believed to have the largest share of the current account market.

EBS and KBC also have a substantial number of current accounts on their books, however the Central Bank is forbidden from specifying the exact amount each lender has under Data Protection legislation.

The fact that fewer people are changing bank providers may be down to two factors.

The first is that consumers are satisfied with the offering of their banks when it comes to their current account.

Indeed, a drop-off in the number of complaints received would appear to support this theory.

However a second factor may be that they are unaware of the offerings of other banks and remain with their own bank because it has never occurred to them to switch.

The first half of 2014 saw the largest spike in the number of people switching current accounts, with over 26,000 people changing in the first half of that year.

The large turnover has been attributed to the withdrawal of current account services by lenders such as Danske Bank and ACC.

The amount of consumers switching has been declining ever since, with the first half of this year showing the lowest number of changeovers since records began.

The number of complaints received about current accounts also fell to its lowest level to date, with 23,210 complaints filed in the first six months of this year. That's down from a high of 40,354, which was recorded in the same period last year.

The data show that 99pc of all complaints received in the first half of this year were resolved within 40 business days.

A new Payments Account Directive will allow consumers to make better decisions about the type of current account that best suits them.

The latest bulletin also shows that there was a 22pc reduction in the amount of current accounts using unauthorised overdrafts. In total, there were 251,331 accounts using unauthorised overdraft facilities in the first six months of 2016.

That represents a reduction of over 200,000 compared with 2014, when 455,160 accounts were in an unauthorised overdraft position.

Irish Independent

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