Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Competition Commission Investigation into banking welcomed

26 May, 2005

Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, Foyle MLA Mitchel McLaughlin has welcomed the announcement that the Competition Commission will investigate the charging practices of the big four banks operating in the north, the Northern Bank, First Trust Bank, Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland, after they failed to prove to the Office of Fair Trading that they were operating fairly.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"Excessive and unregulated charging by banks eats into the pockets of everyone. Of course people accept that there are legitimate charges but what is unacceptable is excessive charging to boost bank and shareholder profits.

"Excessive charges hit struggling small businesses just as they impact on people on low incomes. With the move to benefits and pensions being paid through banks it is vital that bank charges are properly regulated and that banks are forced to stop charging people for basic services.

"The OFT decision to refer £1.9bn personal current account market to the Competition Commission is the most serious course of action it can pursue, it is unprecedented and follows the successful submission of a super-complaint by Which? and the Consumer Council.

"Banks make huge profits every year. It is clear that the big four banks are not prepared to provide a fair deal for customers voluntarily. They are in a position where they believe they can do what they want and there is little provision for the thousands of people who are dependent on their services. It is unacceptable that this relationship is allowed to go unchallenged.

"There needs to be clear cut guidelines for how and when banks charge and a recognition on the part of banks that there are situations when they should not levy charges. This is particularly true in relation to accounts used by people on benefits and in receipt of state pensions." ENDS

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