The Consumer Council responds to Ulster Bank branch closures

in Money Affairs

Calls on banking industry and regulator to adopt strategic, community-wide approach to bank branch closures instead of simply responding to commercial imperatives of individual banks.

Bank branches closures can have a big impact on local communities. The announcement by Ulster Bank today will mean that a further nine communities in Northern Ireland will be left without a bank presence. The Consumer Council will be working with affected Ulster Bank consumers to help them know what do when their local branch is going to close.

John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council said, “In 2017 alone, there have been 33 bank branch closures. This decision by Ulster Bank today will mean an additional 11 branches will be closed, leaving many consumers without a local branch and the services they provide.

“Whilst we recognise that many consumers find it easier to access banking services in different ways such as the internet, apps, and over the phone; it is important to remember that there are still many people and small businesses who do not have access to the internet, and therefore rely on face-to-face banking services to manage their finances.

“With these closures, 42% of Northern Ireland’s bank branches will have closed since 2010. Unfortunately, when previous closures have been announced, other banks have often followed suit. Next week, The Consumer Council is meeting separately with the Chief Executives from both the Financial Conduct Authority and the bank’s trade association, UK Finance. At these meetings we will be stressing the need for a more strategic, community-wide approach to bank provision in Northern Ireland; rather than simply allowing consumers to be consistently affected by the commercial imperative of individual banks.

“The Consumer Council would encourage Ulster Bank customers affected by the closures to contact their bank directly to ensure that their alternative services will meet their needs. If not, we would advise consumers to review their bank account and check it provides the best overall deal and service. The Consumer Council’s website (www.consumercouncil.org.uk) provides guides on bank closures and switching bank accounts, and comparison tools to help consumers ensure they are receiving the best deal for their current account. Alternatively customers can call us on 0800 121 6022.”

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