Pricewatch: Readers’ queries

This week a Dutch man in Ireland vents about our banking and insurance practices, and another consumer has a concern about discounted utility contracts

KBC’s Irish headquarters in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

KBC’s Irish headquarters in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mon, Jun 30, 2014, 01:00

Irish banking and insurance are double Dutch to some

Ronald Vallenduuk is Dutch but has lived in Ireland “for a few years now”. He enjoys it here, although there are “things that do my head in. Banks and insurance are two of those.”

He asks why our banks are “stuck in the 19th century. I’ve recently switched from Bank of Ireland to KBC because they said they were going to do things differently, but it’s all still the same. For a start, when I switched, for some reason my standing orders had to be switched off at Bank of Ireland a week before they came into effect at KBC. Why? It got me into trouble with a weekly standing order for child maintenance,” he writes.

“A few weeks later I was in trouble again, because, without notice, the standing order wasn’t processed on Good Friday but instead the Tuesday after. When I asked KBC why, I was first told that Good Friday is an official holiday, then that it’s a bank holiday, and then that it’s not a holiday but not a banking day either. They told me standing orders are processed manually. Then they that changed that to state that they are processed automatically. All of which doesn’t explain why the computer couldn’t wire my money across on Good Friday.”

That is not all. He wanted to move his savings account. “The best savings account is one that accepts lodgments by direct debit only, which meant I couldn’t lodge the balance of my old savings account as part of the transfer. Instead I had to set up a direct debit for €1,000 per month until the balance had been transferred. Then, when I went to the bank to change the amount down to €200, I had to write my request on a blank sheet of paper. No form, no way for the bank staff to make the change, only a handwritten request would do. How last century is that?”

After all that, the change took more than 10 days to be processed, resulting in his current account being empty, and as a result of that a direct debit couldn’t be processed, resulting in a charge of €10. “Not as bad as Bank of Ireland’s €12.70, but again this seems to be because everything is still manual in Irish banks.”

He then explains how this works in the Netherlands. “If I have a direct debit set up, and on the date the balance isn’t in the account, nothing happens. The computer will try again a few days later, and if the balance is there then it’s processed. No fee or charge or penalty for anyone. If after a few attempts the direct debit still can’t be processed, then the receiver is notified and they can sort it with the account holder. No penalties.”

Ronald is not finished. “Online banking is a joke. Why can’t I simply enter an Iban, a recipient name and an amount for a one-off payment like I could in Holland? Instead I have to set up a payee, set a fixed message, get a confirmation code to my phone and then I can make the payment. I love security, but why is my account number not on my bank card? Why can’t I even see my own account number in online banking? I can only imagine that it’s to do with the level of security at the bank.

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