Tuesday, 8 February 2022
Department of Finance
241. To ask the Minister for Finance the supports he can provide for vulnerable current account customers who may not be in a position to switch accounts prior to the closure of said accounts by a bank (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [5883/22]
In October 2021, Ulster Bank outlined its intended process to support customers closing their accounts as the bank exits the Irish market.
Initially customers will receive written notice outlining their closure date and how Ulster Bank can support them to 'Choose, Move & Close' their accounts. Further contact will be made with vulnerable customers and those with complex needs. Ulster Bank has encouraged personal customers who are ready to switch to contact them at 0818 210 260 to arrange an appointment or call into a branch for help on an individual and personalised basis.
Customers will receive reminders during the lead up to Ulster Bank's closure and ultimately, if no action is taken, a customer account will be closed with a cheque issued for any remaining balance.
I would encourage all Ulster Bank customers to engage with the bank to put in place the appropriate arrangements to switch to a new provider in advance of the it's closure.
In addition to the support Ulster Bank will be providing customers, the Central Bank of Ireland'sis also in place to support customers when switching current accounts to ensure it is easy and straightforward.
All banks, payment institutions and e-money institutions that offer payment accounts in Ireland must comply with the Code. As per provision 4.a of the Code all banks must provide a switching pack to their customers. Provision 10 of the code requires that the switch is completed within 10 days of the switching date.
In terms of supports for vulnerable customers, the Central Bank’s consumer protection framework is designed to ensure that customers’ best interests are protected. The Central Bank’s Consumer Protection Code 2012 (“the Code”) states that: “Where a regulated entity has identified that a personal consumer is a vulnerable consumer, the regulated entity must ensure that the vulnerable consumer is provided with such reasonable arrangements and/or assistance that may be necessary to facilitate him or her in his or her dealings with the regulated entity.”
On 25 June 2021, the Central Bank issued an regarding its consumer protection expectations in the changing retail banking landscape. In respect of vulnerable customers, this industry letter sets out that all customers are potentially vulnerable to the risk of making uninformed decisions, or decisions that are not in their best interests, particularly during times of uncertainty and change. The Central Bank sets out the following expectation of regulated entities in respect of vulnerable customers:
Consider specifically the impact of their decisions on vulnerable customers and provide the assistance necessary to reasonably mitigate those impacts and retain access to basic financial services.
Have specific and effective processes and communication plans to support vulnerable customers during this time of increased uncertainty.