Banks agree to payment break for customers affected by Covid-19

Irish banks have agreed to a payment break for up to three months for business and personal customers affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19), the sector’s representative body Banking & Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) has confirmed.

The CEOs of Ireland’s five retail banks – AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC, Permanent tsb and Ulster Bank – along with BPFI met with the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, for discussions yesterday, Wednesday, March 18.

During the talks, a joint plan was set out to support the thousands of businesses and employees across Ireland impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The five retail banks confirmed they are introducing measures to help businesses and personal customers whose personal and business circumstances have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

The banks are also working collaboratively to ensure that continuity of service plans are in place, that critical functions can continue, and that staff remain available to continue to service customers at this time, the BPFI stressed.

The banking and payments sector is fully committed to working together and collaboratively to ensure provision of branch and payment services during this challenging period, it was added.

The measures include the following:
  1. To implement a payment break up to three months for business and personal customers affected by Covid-19, to be followed by ongoing reviews depending on the scale and extent of the situation. Customers wishing to avail of a payment break should contact their respective bank;
  1. The banks agree there is a need for a simplified application process to make it as easy as possible for businesses and personal customers impacted by Covid-19 to receive support from their banks;
  1. The banks want to ensure that any Covid-19 application for a payment break and further reviews will not adversely impact the customer’s credit record, and the banks reporting of these facilities. Banks want to avoid this and are meeting with the Central Bank of Ireland to urgently achieve a solution in this regard;
  1. Banks will also defer court proceedings for three months;
  1. The banking system stands ready to provide working capital support;
  1. Initial discussions have been held with credit servicing firms and with non-bank lenders which provide mortgages. Both groups have issues to be addressed but are committed to working with the Government and industry to provide the flexibility needed now.

Speaking after the meeting, BPFI CEO Brian Hayes said: “The Irish banks are fully committed to working with the Irish Government and the Central Bank of Ireland during this extraordinary time.

“Priority must be given to ways in which our collective action can support individual customers, families, businesses and communities across the economy during this time.

“As the situation evolves, there will be a requirement to further address changing needs across the economy and the banking industry is ready to respond promptly and with agility,” Hayes added.

He said banks are “also extremely conscious of the particular challenges which vulnerable customers may face at this time and are committed to ensuring that the well-established policies and measures in place continue to serve their needs”.