Consumers’ interests are almost secondary

Consumers’ interests are almost secondary

The ongoing tracker mortgages scandal — at least 38,400 borrowers misled — is one example of the banks’ attitude to consumer rights and services.

As anyone who imagines it is still possible to speak to someone in a bank by phone will confirm, if they did not have a heart attack trying, a culture of sort-it-out-yourself customer care is now the norm.

Despite that, and despite a welcome return to profitability, rescued banks will not have to pay taxes on profits for at least another decade.

The insurance sector seems to have learned from its banking peers. They have reported profits of the kind that justify demands for lower premiums.

Three major firms in Ireland, a small country, where just over 2m people are in paid employment, made profits of almost €200m last year. Aviva reported an impressive €113m in operating profits, up from €99m the previous year. RSA made €35m here last year, while FBD reported profits of €50m.

Our economic model is based on the idea that good, efficient companies make profits, thereby generating wealth.

That is unlikely to change anytime soon, but these insurance and banking profits seem disproportionate to the size of the economy and the workforce.

They suggest it is time for far more robust consumer protection and for political interventions that might restore some sort of equity to an out-of-kilter, winner-takes-all relationship.

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