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17th August 2005

FIRST TRUST CLIMB DOWN OVER “FEE-FREE” HEADLINE CLAIM

<p>Following an official complaint by the Consumer Council to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the First Trust Bank has climbed down over its campaign, which claimed to offer a fee-free packaged current account.</p>

The ASA's investigation focussed on the latest First Trust Bank advertising campaign, which claimed that its new packaged current account was free, when it actually carries a monthly fee of £8.00.   As a result the First Trust Bank has agreed to remove all implications that this account is free from posters, advertisements and direct mail.  This assurance extends to any future campaigns on this packaged current account.

Eleanor Gill, Chief Executive at the Consumer Council said: “Free does not mean £8.00 per month to any member of the public.  We took immediate steps to refer this campaign to the ASA on the grounds that it was misleading and the ASA agreed that we had a valid point. 

“Consumers do not need glossy advertising campaigns or flashy new accounts.  The Big Four[1] Banks need to provide real fee-free banking on all their accounts for their existing and new customers - and give a decent rate of interest.  

“This misleading campaign by First Trust Bank comes at a time when the personal current account market here is under investigation by the Competition Commission.  Loyal customers are being charged more and getting less back for their hard-earned money than consumers in the rest of the United Kingdom.

“The Consumer Council welcomes First Trust Bank's decision to co-operate with the ASA to resolve the complaint informally and quickly.  In this case, it was the headline as well as the small print that implied that the account was fee-free.  Customers should be alert when shopping around for an account that meets their needs.  The Consumer Council will continue to monitor the activities of our local banks and to co-operate with the ongoing Competition Commission inquiry.”

Details of the ASA's decision are available on its website at www.asa.org.uk.

ENDS

  1. Consumer Council media contact: Susie Brown, telephone, 028 9067 4807 or e-mail, [email protected]
  2. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal and passenger transport.
  3. For more information, visit our website at www.gccni.org.uk

 



[1] Bank of Ireland, First Trust, Northern and Ulster Banks