City visit for bank charges probe chiefs

The Competition Commission is visiting Belfast this week as part of its investigation into alleged “rip-off” charges imposed on personal account holders at Northern banks, it was revealed today.

The Big Four banks in the North – Ulster Bank, Northern Bank, First Trust and Bank of Ireland – are being investigated by the Commission following the submission of a successful “super-complaint” to the Office of Fair Trading by Which? And the Consumer Council.

The Commission said that during its Belfast visit on Thursday it would be meeting a wide range of community organisations as well as political parties and local authorities.

Meetings will cover such questions as:

:: What leads customers to open a personal current account with a particular bank and what leads them to switch banks?

:: How important are bank changes?

:: How well-informed are customers about terms and conditions?

:: How much is the personal current account market changing?

Inquiry chairman Christopher Clarke said the investigation was looking at whether competition was working effectively in the market for personal current accounts in the North and whether customers were receiving their banking services on competitive terms.

“We’ve already received evidence from the banks and other interested parties.

“This is now an opportunity for us to hear at first hand from groups who represent consumers in Northern Ireland so that they can express any concerns that have been raised with them.”

The Consumer Council launched its campaign against the banks, claiming they were charging customers far more for bank services that their counterparts charged customers in the rest of the UK.

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