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It's time for action if your bank is shutting up shop

I am a current account and mortgage customer of Halifax. Now that they are closing their Irish operation what am I to do? I had been a customer of one of the major banks, but left them when I became dissatisfied with the quality of the service I was receiving. Will I have to return to my former bank or are there other alternatives?

-- Phyllis

On February 10, Halifax, the retail arm of the Bank of Scotland (Ireland), announced that it was shutting its Irish operation.

This move leaves tens of thousands of customers needing to make fresh banking arrangements.

Halifax isn't the only foreign bank to exit the Irish market. On Friday of last week, Postbank, the joint venture between An Post and French bank BNP Paribas, announced that it was shutting at the end of the year.

For Phyllis, the good news is that she need do nothing about her mortgage.

Existing mortgages and personal loans will continue under their existing terms and conditions until they are paid off or the borrower switches to another lender (an unlikely occurrence in the current climate, given AIB's announcement last week that it was "not inclined" to grant mortgages to borrowers switching from other banks).

Unfortunately, if Phyllis wanted to increase or otherwise alter the terms of her mortgage at some time in the future it would appear that she would have to find another financial institution willing to take on her home loan.

My advice would be to sit tight until the dust settles.

On her current account, Phyllis doesn't enjoy the same luxury.

Halifax is planning to close all of its current accounts and cancel its credit cards by the end of May.

That's less than three months away.

This means that Phyllis has no time to lose. She needs to open a current account with another bank right away.

Then she needs to move all of her regular payments over to the new account immediately. This will give her almost three months to iron out any glitches.

As anyone who has ever switched current accounts can testify, you can never have enough time to execute this allegedly simple task.

By the time her standing orders and direct debits have been successfully transferred, Phyllis will find that she needs every one of those three months.

I drive a Toyota Corolla which has never let me down. However, I have read of problems with the accelerator. What should I do? Should I contact my Toyota dealer or wait until they contact me?

-- James

In recent weeks, Toyota's previously well-deserved reputation for quality has taken a battering following accelerator pedal problems with many of its best-selling models, particularly in the United States.

Toyota Ireland announced on February 11 that it would be contacting owners of affected models in this country over the following three weeks.

These included versions of several of its best-selling models including the Aygo, IQ, Yaris, Auris, Corolla, Verso and Avensis.

However, two of Toyota Ireland's best-selling models, the 1.4 litre petrol-engined Corolla and Auris models are not affected by the recall.

This means that if James car is to be included in the recall, he will hear from Toyota in the next few days, if he hasn't already done so.

Toyota says that the repair to the accelerator pedal will take just 20 minutes.

It also warns its customers not to accept any offers to collect or deliver their Toyotas to the dealer for the recall.

Apparently, a number of scamsters have been contacting Toyota drivers who unsuspectingly hand over their car and keys and never see either again.