Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Finance
Bank Codes of Conduct
131. To ask the Minister for Finance if the Central Bank plans to update the code of practice governing bank branch closures (details supplied) that would ensure that, at a minimum, an impact assessment is carried out that would include among other things extending the notice period of branch closures to six months and inserting a 12 month notice of closure for a branch that is the last branch in a particular area. [30816/20]
132. To ask the Minister for Finance if the recent actions of a bank (details supplied) in closing four branches are in compliance with provision 3.12 of the 2012 consumer protection code; his views that the consumer protection code should be updated to protect staff and consumers that rely on branch banking including consumers in areas with poor broadband connectivity. [30817/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 131 and 132 together.
I have no statutory role in relation decisions about bank branch closures. Banks in Ireland are independent commercial entities and it is a commercial decision for the management team and board of each institution as to where they locate their branches.
Banks are required to notify the Central Bank immediately once a decision to close a branch has been made. While noting that the closure of branches is a commercial decision for the regulated entity, the Central Bank expects all regulated entities, including banks, to take a consumer-focused approach, ensure clear communications with customers regarding any such changes to a bank’s branch network and to have alternative channels available to consumers to avail of banking services.
The Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) currently contains a provision that seeks to ensure that consumers are treated fairly, where a bank intends to close, merge or move a branch, by having sufficient time to make alternative arrangements, in instances where a credit institution intends to close, move or merge a branch. Specifically, Provision 3.12 of the Code requires that credit institutions must i) notify the Central Bank immediately; ii) provide at least two months’ notice to affected consumers to enable them to make alternative arrangements; iii) ensure all business of the branch is properly completed prior to the closure, merger or move; or alternatively, inform the consumer of how continuity of service will be provided; and iv) notify the wider community of the closure, merger or move in the local press in advance.
Provision 3.12 does not preclude credit institutions from providing longer notice periods than the aforementioned 2 months’ notice when closing, moving or merging a branch. I am advised that the Central Bank cannot comment on individual banks plans in respect of branch closures.
A review of the Consumer Protection Code is currently underway and all of its provisions are within scope. A public consultation on the Central Bank’s proposals for amendments will take place in 2021 giving all stakeholders an opportunity to make submissions. This review will also include transferring the Code into regulations in line with the regulation making powers given to the Central Bank in the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013.