The Department of Finance has published its review of the regulation of bank charges in Ireland. Section 149 of the Consumer Credit Act 1995 (as amended) requires financial institutions to seek approval for any increases in fees and charges and for the introduction of new charges.
“The main conclusion of the review is that it would not be appropriate to repeal Section 149 at this point in time. It was felt that the lack of competition in the banking sector means that the removal of section 149 would give unfettered price setting power to the incumbent banks. However this conclusion should be revisited when competition in the banking sector has improved. The review also recommended that the process used by the Central Bank of Ireland for assessing applications under the Section 149 process should be examined further to take account of Government policy, changing customer behaviour and product developments.”
No proposals were made to limit the scope of Section 149 approvals to consumers and small to medium size enterprises. Therefore, the anomalous situation of applying Section 149 to international banks and those serving large corporates only will remain. We believe there was a missed opportunity for this issue to be addressed in the review and it is a shame that no recommendations were made in the published results to address this anomaly in the regulation of bank charges.