20 June 2002 Edition

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Banks accused of exploiting customers

State bank needed - Ó Caoláin

Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has accused the Central Bank of "failing to protect the customer" and the banking institutions of "exploiting their customers in Ireland to extract excessive profits". The leader of the Sinn Féin group in the Dáil was speaking on Tuesday on the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland Bill.

"It is clear that the Central Bank has failed to protect the customer. Banks in Ireland are the most profitable in Europe. They enjoy a return on their equity that is double the EU average. They do so at the expense of the ordinary customer in Ireland, who is being exploited by their pursuit of excessive profits.

"Banks in the 26 Counties are charging customers for a range of services that their counterparts in the Six Counties and in Britain do not, such as setting up an overdraft or direct debit, account maintenance charges, ATM withdrawals and lodgements.

"While welcoming the aspect of this Bill that seeks to establish a commissioner for consumer protection, it is far from clear how this commissioner will protect the customer from further exploitation.

The TD for Cavan/Monaghan went on to call for the establishment of an efficient and profitably run state bank and insurance company.

"We need to recognise the failure of the private banking and insurance sector in protecting the interests of their ordinary customer," he said. "Whether it be in providing universal banking access or affordable insurance cover or whether there is an ability to hold executives and directors of financial institutions accountable for gross mismanagement, it is clear that the private sector has failed on many levels.

"Finally, we need to recognise that with all these failures in the private banking and financial services sector there is an obvious role for a state bank and insurance company. These would be state companies that would be efficiently and profitably run, not exploitatively as is obviously the case in the private sector currently."

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