The Rural Independent Group has called on the Minister for Finance and the Central Bank to protect Ulster Bank and KBC customers.
As part of its phased withdrawal from the Republic of Ireland, Ulster Bank began writing to its 360,000 customers in April notifying them that they have six months to close their current accounts and find a new provider.
KBC Bank, which is also leaving the Irish financial market, will be contacting its 130,000 current account customers in June and also giving them the same timeframe to make alternative arrangements for their banking.
Leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie McGrath claimed that the treatment of the Irish customers was “despicable”.
“Both KBC and Ulster Bank are giving their combined 500,000 current account customers a narrow and strict six-month notice period to close or transfer their accounts as both banks exit the Irish market.
“This dictate from both banks demonstrates their shabby treatment of existing customers, many of whom are finding it extremely difficult to obtain replacement banking services,” the Tipperary TD said.
“Many existing KBC and Ulster Bank customers are informing us about extreme difficulties in making in-person appointments with either bank, due to staff shortages or limited appointment availability.
“The issues are particularly difficult for under-pressure farmers, who have been banking mainly with Ulster Bank, or elderly customers, who are trying to transfer.
“Furthermore, even after transferring to a new bank, customers are being forced to wait for very long time periods before they can avail of any credit or overdraft facilities. This is having a tremendous impact on farmers and small businesses,” McGrath claimed.
“Immediate action must be taken to end this chaotic situation, which will only worsen in the coming months.
“Both banks should be barred from leaving the Irish marketplace until every single customer has been facilitated with a smooth transfer of their banking requirements.
“For this to occur, we believe a dedicated and streamlined banking transfer unit must be established and paid for by all the banks,” he continued.
McGrath also pointed to the higher mortgage interest rates in Ireland compared to the euro-zone average and demanded greater competition in the Irish banking sector.
“We are again calling on the Minister for Finance [Paschal Donohoe] and the government to emerge from the shadow of the banking lobby, to show transparency and establish actionable measures to protect all bank customers, especially the existing KBC and Ulster Bank customers,” he said.