AIB has been slammed for an “alarming lack of empathy” by the consumer advocate on the Irish Banking Culture Board for introducing maintenance fees for current account holders.
Padraic Kissane — who is credited for being among the first to lift the lid of the €1bn tracker mortgage scandal, which saw 40,000 customers wrongly put on more expensive loans —called for AIB to reverse its decision on the fees.
The bank, whose major shareholder is the State, said free maintenance and transaction fees for current account holders with a minimum balance of €2,500 in each quarter will be withdrawn on May 30.
Maintenance fees will cost €4.50 a quarter from May 30, while taking cash out from an ATM will cost s 35c, cents and over-the-counter transactions will cost 39c cents.
“You couldn’t make this up. It shows a profound lack of understanding in what the entire country is trying to deal with at present,” said Mr Kissane.
“There is an alarming lack of empathy. It should not have been sent today just as the entire country is heading into a weekend without any certainty of what is happening next week, not to mind in May.”
He called for AIB to pause the charges for six months.
“It is not a lot to ask, given what is occurring and the real fears people are dealing with at present. It should not have been sent — full stop — and certainly not today,” he said.
It is the second time in a week that AIB has been criticised for plans to introduce extra fees for customers.
It abandoned plans for a 1c charge on contactless payments, following a major public backlash.
Regarding the current account changes, AIB said that the European interest rate environment has made it difficult for the bank to provide a banking service that is free of maintenance and transaction fees free .
Mortgage holders with AIB will be exempt, along with student accounts, graduate accounts, customers over 66, and basic bank accounts.
Mr Kissane is a member of the Irish Banking Culture Board, set up to address cultural issues with main pillar banks and lenders in the wake of the tracker mortgage scandal.
The board, which is independent, is funded by AIB, Bank of Ireland, KBC Bank Ireland, Permanent TSB, and Ulster Bank.
It has a non-banking majority, whose members are drawn from across Irish society.
The IBCB says it “promotes ethical behaviour and advocates for humility, decency, and respect in the banking sector”.
Mr Kissane said he would be writing to the board’s chairman to voice his anger at AIB’s decision to end the free transactions.