A LEADING bank has been forced to apologise after it sent a letter threatening to pursue a man with Down syndrome over a debt of just 70 cent.
Philip Kelly (24) was warned by bank officials to clear the balance within two months or face having his account closed.
In the letter, dated August 28, Permanent TSB's Asset Management Unit told Mr Kelly that his account had been overdrawn for a "significant period of time".
"This letter is your notice that we will close the above account if you do not make a lodgement to clear the outstanding balance within two months from the date of this letter. This is in accordance with your account conditions," the bank wrote.
"By closing your account, we will also cancel your debit card and any payments that are set to come from this account will not be made. Please be aware that, despite account closure, we reserve the right to pursue the outstanding balance."
The account was overdrawn by just 70 cent.
Last night, Mr Kelly's family spoke of their upset at the bank's treatment of their son.
His parents claimed the bank refused to discuss the matter with them because they are not official account holders.
"Philip is non compos mentis - which means he is unable to handle his own affairs," his mother Mary, who is her son's full-time carer, told the Herald.
"We feel this episode illustrates that disabled people and their families continue to be discriminated against in this country."
The family, who live in Dundrum, south Dublin, said the incident also illustrated the need for greater awareness of needs of people with disabilities.
Both Mary and her husband Larry have been customers of the bank for 26 years and said they have never fallen into arrears.
Last night, a spokesman for Permanent TSB said the bank would like to "apologise unreservedly" to the Kelly family.
The bank said that a review into the circumstances of the letter being sent out would be examined and that efforts would be made to contact the Kelly family.
"I apologise unreservedly to this customer and to his family for this issue and we will take immediate steps to review the circumstances in which this letter was issued and to ensure that no further correspondence of this nature [occurs]," the spokesman told the Herald.
"We will be seeking to make contact with the individual customer himself to apologise for any upset that has been caused," the spokesman added.
The family welcomed the apology and the announcement of a review. But they said they would like to see the bank make a financial donation to a local charity in south Dublin as a means of rectifying the error.