Written answers

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Photo of Róisín ShortallRóisín Shortall (Dublin North West, Social Democrats)
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70. To ask the Minister for Finance the steps that he is taking to ensure that vulnerable customers are assisted in switching banks, following the issuing of closure notices by banks (details supplied); if he has engaged with the remaining banks to ensure that appointments will be made available; if his attention has been drawn to reports that some banks are only providing appointments to those wishing to open a joint account, with those wishing to open a single account only permitted to so online; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31178/22]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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I am not aware of the specific issue raised, but both I and the Central Bank have been clear in our engagements with the banks in that we expect them to take a consumer-focused approach in respect of any decision that affects their customers.

I would note that at the banks recent appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform and Taoiseach on 18 May, each of the remaining banks spoke about the different options for account opening, both digital and physical, as well as the supports they have in place for vulnerable customers.

In addition, the Central Bank has written to all retail banks, both those exiting and remaining in the Irish market. Central Bank expects them to have plans in place to manage the impact of the broader changes and consolidation in the retail banking sector in Ireland. It is the responsibility of the individual banks to ensure that they are putting their customer first, ensuring fair treatment of customers and that customers understand what the changes mean for them.

With regard to vulnerable customers, the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code 2012 (the Code) applies to regulated financial service providers providing regulated activities within the State. Under the provisions of the Code the Central Bank expects that all regulated firms take a consumer-focused approach and to act in their customers’ best interests, particularly in dealings with vulnerable consumers. The Code contains a number of provisions aimed at ensuring that vulnerable people can gain access to mainstream financial services and to ensure that the vulnerable consumer is provided with such reasonable arrangements to facilitate them in their dealings with the regulated entity.

The Central Bank has also written specifically to banks on the issue of vulnerable customers setting out its consumer protection expectations in the changing retail banking landscape. 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.

The Central Bank met with the CEOs of the five main retail banks on 17 May 2022 to discuss the large scale migration of customer bank accounts, and the actions necessary to ensure that this activity happens in line with customer needs and expectations.

Following a constructive meeting, there was agreement that a strong customer focused approach needs to be delivered including the banks having customer focused arrangements to ensure they take into account the specific circumstances a customer may face and strongly supporting them in making the move.

My officials and I will continue to monitor the migration of current accounts from the exiting banks and engage with relevant stakeholders, both public and private, as I have been doing over recent months. With the objective of ensuring that impacted customers face the least amount of disruption in migrating their accounts.


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