[Sinn Fein]

6th February 2003

Sinn Fein calls for investigation of banking Practices

Sinn Fein Chairperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin MLA for Foyle has called for an investigation into banking practices here following the latest claims by consumer magazine 'Which' that banks here are on occasion charging up to ten times more than their counterparts in Britain.

Mr McLaughlin said:

"It has long been claimed by clients and consumer groups that banks here are a law unto themselves. There have been accusations that some penalties imposed by Banks here is nothing short of unscrupulous profiteering by an establishment that has no consideration for its clientele.

The average client does not possess the expertise to compare the myriad of charges that are levied by the various banks. The client is left in a situation in which they believe that they have no choice but to pay whatever charges imposed however unjust they may appear.

The time is past when an establishment such as banking should be given unfettered power to charge the general public whatever they want. There needs to be a far-reaching investigation of the justification of most bank charges. We are now in an era in which banking is reaching into every aspect of life. The British government is now instigating a system whereby all government benefits will be paid electronically into bank and Post Office accounts.

Whatever assurances are now being given about no or minimal charges on these accounts once it becomes the norm the clients will be vulnerable to many pressures from banking interests to participate in other schemes being offered by the bank. Unless stringently regulated those least able to afford it will become prey to unregulated banking practices devised by people that have no conception of the difficulties of living on a fixed income.

I am calling on government to set up an independent investigatory body to scrutinise banking practices and if necessary a regulatory body.

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