The Bank of Ireland has been accused of breaching rules designed to protect consumers by shutting branches during the Covid-19 lockdown, with little notice to customers.

The bank shut 101 branches in March due to the pandemic, mainly in rural areas - including Ballyhaunis, Ballinrobe, Charlestown and Kiltimagh.

They've since reopened since last week but some on a reduced hours basis.

It has now emerged that the bank gave just 24 hours' notice that it was shutting what amounts to around 38pc of its total network.

According to the Irish Independent, banks are required under the Central Bank's Consumer Protection Code to notify the Central Bank immediately and give customers two months' notice of the closure of a branch or branches.

Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall accused Bank of Ireland of a clear breach of the consumer protection code.

She told Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf at the Covid-19 Oireachtas Committee yesterday that the bank was required to give notice of branch closures.

Ms Shortall said this was a clear breach of the code, and wanted to know if the Central Bank was going to hold Bank of Ireland to account so that there are no breaches in future.

The governor said the bank had an obligation to its staff, but did not say if the bank was going to be sanctioned.

Bank of Ireland said that the rapid emergence of Covid-19 in March meant that very quick measures had to be taken in order to protect the health of customers and staff.

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