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Euro exchange charges by major Banks must be opposed

25 January, 2008

Mitchel McLaughlin MLA (South Antrim) has described Euro exchange charges on ATM withdrawals by some banks including Bank of Ireland, Northern and Ulster Banks as just another example of the greed of some Financial Institutions in Ireland.

Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"Not satisfied with their already obscene multi-billion pound annual profits these Banks have been resolute in their pursuit of even greater levels of profit. It has been brought to my attention that a number of banks who use the Maestro (debit card) system are charging a 2.65% exchange plus 75P transaction charge to Northern customers who wish to make Euro cash withdrawals. This is blatant profiteering and should be opposed by the Financial regulators.

"Recent exposure by the Office of Fair Trading in the North of illegal charging for unauthorized overdrafts resulted in the Banks having to repay millions of pounds to customers. This unfortunately is another example of the slick practices that these institutions apply in order to maximize profits and dividends for shareholders. The fact is that the source of the majority of these profits comes from those on an average industrial wage who have to budget their expenditure very carefully.

"There is a clear need for greater vigilance and scrutiny by government and Financial Regulators when it comes to the application of additional charges by Banks and other financial institutions. Many customers have no idea that they are paying these exchange surcharges or how much they are really paying for other banking services.

"Since the Good Friday Agreement politicians and the governments have been endeavouring to build a single all-Ireland economy that would provide for seamless business and financial transactions and encourage greater mobility for workers and tourists throughout the island. Such proposals from these Banks undermine all of that effort.

"Sinn Fein is determined that irreversible progress continues in removing obstacles to cross island mobility and Sinn Féin will lead the way in opposing and exposing action by any bodies or organizations that will place impediments to developing an all-Ireland economy.

"Economic and social mobility patterns across the island demonstrate continued progress and it is essential that it continues without hindrance.

"I recently welcomed the initiative taken at the North South Ministerial Council in Dundalk where it was agreed to set up a working group to examine the whole issue of cross-border banking.

"I now call on the NSMC to ask this Working Group to look into this unjustifiable service tariff being imposed by leading banks with a view to having it stopped. The integration of banking services is a natural progression in the development of an all-Ireland economy and I would encourage all banks doing business on the island of Ireland to develop services that will enhance, not inhibit, this progression." ENDS

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