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RULES OF THE GAME NOW SET FOR FAIR NORTHERN IRELAND BANKING

The Consumer Council has welcomed the final Order placed today on our local banks by the Competition Commission as a victory for fair personal banking and consumer power here. Following the most comprehensive investigation of the £2.1 billion personal current account (PCA) market, the legally-binding rules of the game have finally been outlined which all banks here must follow or face court action by the Office of Fair Trading.

Eleanor Gill, Chief Executive of the Consumer Council said: "Banking is an essential everyday service for many consumers and they need to be armed with the tools, information and confidence to take control of their bank account and seek out the best deal.  This package of measures imposed by the Competition Commission clearly and rightly focuses on developing more informed consumers.  All banks must be pro-consumer and pro-competition, not only implementing these changes but communicating them clearly to their existing and new customers.”

“As a result of the super-complaint issued by Which? and the Consumer Council in 2004, the PCA market here is being transformed by consumer power.   Four years ago the big four banks [1] in Northern Ireland overcharged customers for virtually every service they offered from paying paltry interest for accounts in credit [2] to charging up to 43p each time a customer used a cash point [3] when customers of other banks were not charged at all.

Eleanor Gill continued, “Under the Competition Commission’s legal Order, by July this year all banks operating here will have to explain all their charges and interest rates clearly to their customers.  By April next year they must give all customers 14 days’ notice before applying charges to their account and to make switching between banks easy and risk-free they must set up an interest-free overdraft “buffer”.  Customers must also receive an annual statement to let them know how much their account is costing them in charges or making for them in interest.

“The Consumer Council looks forward to working with all banks as they implement the Competition Commission’s package of measures with no extra cost to their customers.   We firmly believe that they make sense – they are good for business and good for consumers.  The Consumer Council will provide all help and assistance to the banks as they continue to improve the products and services they offer to their customers.”

  1. Consumer Council media contact: Gráinne Duffy, telephone, 028 9067 4813 or e-mail, gduffy@consumercouncil.org.uk.  
  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 buses, trains, planes, ferries, natural gas, electricity, coal and water.
  3. For more information, visit our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk



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

[2]generally 0.1 per cent

[3]Big four banks charged customers who were in authorised or unauthorised overdraft during the quarter 43p every time they withdrew money from a cash machine.