shutdown | 

Ulster Bank pushing ahead with plans to start freezing accounts from next weekend

Process will start on November 11 and customers affected will lose access to their funds at the bank

Ulster Bank is closing and its account holders need to find a new home. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Donal O'DonovanIndependent.ie

Ulster Bank intends to push ahead with its plan to begin freezing the bank accounts of a first wave of customers who’ve yet to move to a new bank from the end of this week, the Irish Independent understands.

An initial October deadline was kicked back a month to allow additional time for customers to prepare but its understood the plan is now to begin the process of freezing current and deposit accounts on or after November 11.

Once an account is frozen direct debits and standing orders will stop going out and customers will lose immediate access to their funds. The customer will then have 30 days before the account is shut by the bank.

Holders of the accounts affected were told in April and May that they had six months to shut their account and switch to a new bank, credit union or An Post.

The first of those are now due to be made inactive. The bank told TDs last month that the initial freeze will target the least active accounts with five or fewer transactions in a month though them before targeting busier accounts. The intention is to push all remaining bank customers to find a new bank.

Ulster Bank is understood to be planning a tentative approach to the freezing of accounts, examining the profile of account holders and assessing the potential impact cutting access to an account will have on customers. That may mean prioritising accounts set up to receive pension and social welfare payments to stay open longer, for example.

It is understood customers who use Ulster Bank as their main account but have not moved to a new provider will be given further support to complete the switch.

Ulster Bank is not expected to fully exit the Irish market until next year but the bank has divided its hundreds of thousands of customer accounts into different cohorts and put them on rolling schedules for closure as part of its managed exit.

In each case customers have been given six months notice of the deadline for their account to be frozen. The bank has said over 70pc of customers notified in April and May their account will close have either closed or materially wound down the level of activity in their current account or left it inactive. That suggests close to a third of those told to close their accounts have yet to make any significant moves to leave Ulster Bank while not all those who’ve begun to move have completed the process.

Research published this week by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission showed of those who are moving bank most are going to AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB. The Central Bank Governor Gabriel Makhlouf this week repeated the regulator’s position that it could act to delay banks exiting the Irish market if there’s a danger former customers will be left stranded.

Ulster CEO Jane Howard has urged customers to contact the bank on 0818 210 260, or 00353 1804 7475 if calling from abroad, or 1800 656 001 if they have vulnerabilities.


Today's Headlines

More World News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos