Fury over BOI's branch plans

Simon Brouder and Tadhg Evans

Bank of Ireland has been accused of ignoring customers' needs after it announced plans to axe counter services in many of its branches.

Bank of Ireland is planning to stop staff handling cash at counters at more than 100 branches, including seven in Kerry and west Limerick.

The plan means that by the end of the year a third of its branches will no longer accept cash or coins at the counter and customers will have to rely on self service machines to lodge or withdraw cash.

They won't have counters open, and foreign currency exchange and coin transaction services won't be available.

Other branches will have morning-only counter services.

BOI branches in Castleisland, Killorglin and Abbeyfeale will provide no counter services. Branches in Listowel, Dingle, Cahersiveen, Kenmare and Newcastlewest will offer morning-only counter services.

The Tralee and Killarney BOI branches will continue to offer counter services all day.

Reacting to the news that Dingle's branch will offer only morning counter services, Dingle Business Chamber Chair Gary Curran said he's worried about the effect the changes will have on local business.

"Businesses here deal with a lot of cash transactions, and from the point of view of making cash lodgements, there's already trouble making time from your work to rush down before close at 4pm," he said.

"They only open at 10am as it is, so it's not like you can head down early either. This certainly wouldn't be business-friendly."

The move was also criticised by Age Action Ireland who accused the bank of ignoring the needs of older customers who aren't comfortable with technology.

The Consumers' Association, accused the bank of ignoring its responsibilities to customers.

The consumer lobby group, said online banking was not an option for many people outside major cities as many do not have adequate broadband while others were uncomfortable using electric services in branches, he said.

Bank of Ireland said it already has a number of cash-free branches, and wants to convert more branches to an "advice and self-service" model.

The bank denied the move was merely to cut costs and it claimed just three per cent of transactions in its branches are done at counters. It is also rolling out an eduction programme to assist customers with the transition to self service and online banking.