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Bad day for consumers with Ulster Bank departure - Fitzgerald

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Press Statement from Frances Fitzgerald MEP

Friday 19th February 2021

Bad day for consumers with Ulster Bank departure - Fitzgerald

It’s time to look to Europe for answers to competition issues

Frances Fitzgerald MEP and Member of the European Parliament's ECON Committee today (Friday) said that banking competition has been dealt a serious blow in Ireland, with the announcement of Ulster Bank’s departure from the Irish banking market.

“Today is a bad day for consumers - it signals the loss of choice, the loss of competition and the loss of confidence in the future of the Irish banking market," said Ms. Fitzgerald.

“With the departure of Ulster Bank, we are effectively going towards a duopoly in the market with two dominant banks.

“The response to Ulster Bank’s departure should be primarily focused on the staff and their families, who have faced so much uncertainty in recent months, and ensuring that the bank’s customers are afforded the highest level of consumer protection.

“This is the latest in a long list of departures from the Irish banking market in recent years, including the likes of Rabobank, Danske Bank and ACCBank.

“Ulster Bank was an important player in the Irish market commanding about a 15% share of the mortgage market and a 20% share of SME lending.

“We must now admit that there are major structural problems and ongoing legacy issues in the Irish banking market that need to be tackled.

“When it comes to instilling competition into the Irish banking market, we can look to Europe for answers. We are part of the EU banking union, we are part of a single euro area currency and we are part of the single market.

“Irish consumers should be able to avail of the EU’s single market in order to purchase banking products from banks in other Eurozone countries.

“In 2018, then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told MEPs in a speech to the European Parliament that: ‘now is the time to fulfil the promise of the single market in other areas. For example, insurance, mortgages and loans, so that people can get cheaper loans from European lenders’.”

“The Irish government needs to follow through on this ambition and make it a key priority to shape the EU’s future financial services agenda to enable an open EU banking union for consumers.

“There are several legal and political obstacles but the Commission has already done a lot of work in this area; in 2017 the Commission published an Action Plan on strengthening the EU’s single market for retail financial services.

“Commissioner McGuinness, at her confirmation hearing in October 2020, committed to looking carefully at this problem and examining the blockages when it comes to borrowing cross-border in Europe. With the right political momentum, we can start to break down these barriers for our consumers.”




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