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‘Super-complaint’ by Which? accuses big four banks in Northern Ireland

The top four banks in Northern Ireland are exploiting consumers and offering inferior products. according to a study by consumer group Which?It is filing a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading with the support of the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland, arguing that bank customers in Northern Ireland are charged 21 times more than mainland customers.

Super-complaints are allowed where markets may be significantly harming consumers’ interests and are fast-tracked by the OFT, which must respond within 90 days.

Which? says the market in Northern Ireland is dominated by “the big four” – Bank of Ireland, First Trust, Northern Bank and Ulster Bank – which control 80 per cent of the branch network in the region. Its findings show that accounts in credit earn on average 0.1 per cent interest.

Bank of Ireland, First Trust and Northern Bank did not comment on the report. Ulster Bank media relations manager Alison Anderson says: “The financial services sector in Northern Ireland is highly competitive with over nine major institutions offering current accounts, 12 offering savings and investments and over 20 offering loans and credit cards.”

Which? principal policy adviser Phil Evans says: “The big four are all offering similarly inferior products, leaving their customers with little choice, indeed, a choice of who will rip them off least.”

GCCNI head of consumer affairs Alan Walker “The evidence shows it is possible there is collusion in the marketplace.”

Hanley Morton IFA Steve Laird says: “It is true to say that the banks price according to the local market, which is less price-sensitive than the mainland. Customers need to start thinking about shopping around but they think it is too much hassle. They would be surprised to find out how easy it actually is.”

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