Thursday, 5 March 2020
Department of Finance
76. To ask the Minister for Finance the steps he will take with the Central Bank to ensure that commercial bank services continue to be made readily available to customers who are not online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2688/20]
The Deputy will be aware that decisions in regards to operational matters are the sole responsibility of the boards and management of the individual banks which are run on an independent and commercial basis. Furthermore, the independence of banks in which the State has a shareholding is protected by Relationship Frameworks, which are legally binding documents that cannot be changed unilaterally. These frameworks are publicly available and were insisted upon by the European Commission to protect competition in the Irish market.
However, I am advised that the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) states that a bank must not, through its policies, procedures, or working practice, prevent access to basic financial services. The Central Bank adopts a ‘technology neutral’ approach meaning that the same principles of regulation, including the rules of the Code, apply equally to both digital and traditional delivery environments.
Part 4 of the European Union (Payment Accounts) Regulations 2016, Access to Payment Accounts, Article 15, sets out that payment accounts with basic features shall be made available to consumers by all relevant credit institutions, without discrimination.
Part 4, Article 17 of those 2016 Regulations outlines the minimum level of services that must be offered to the consumer. This includes services enabling the opening, operating and closing of the payment account, placement of funds in the account and the withdrawal of cash from the account. These services must be available to carry out at the counter on the premises of the credit institution and at ATM machines. The account must also permit the execution, within the EU, of direct debits, payment transactions using a payment card and credit transfers at terminals and counters of the relevant credit institution.
In December 2019, the Department of Finance published the Indecon report on Community Banking in Ireland, the conclusions of this Report indicate that customers have alternative banking options available to them aside from commercial banks. The report concluded that there is extensive provision of banking services in the Irish market, not just by commercial banks but by credit unions and An Post.
The report found that there are 1912 branches operated by banks, credit unions and post offices in Ireland, 63% of these branches are post offices or credit unions and 37% are banks. The Indecon report also demonstrates that there is a higher number of branches per capita in many of the counties where a significant percentage of the population resides in rural areas. Credit unions and post offices provide a wide range of banking services and may be a convenient option for customers who are not online.