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AIB charges end ‘era of free banking’

■ Consumers urged to shop around as fees may hit 60% of customers The era of free banking is dead — the head of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, Dermott Jewell has said after AIB announced a raft of new charges. Consumer groups have also advised customers to shop around for a better deal. From May 28, AIB will begin charging customers — who do not maintain a minimum of €2,500 in their current accounts — transaction fees and maintenance charges. The charges include: ■ 20c for every debit card transaction; ■ 30c for every paper and staff-assisted transaction including cheques, counter withdrawals and lodgements, and staff-assisted transactions at any AIB branch or in the post office; ■ 30c for withdrawing cash at the counter; ■ 20c for every cash withdrawal from ATM’s with AIB banklink cards and AIB debit cards. AIB will also be adding a €4.50 per financial quarter, or €18 a year charge on top of transaction fees. Bank of Ireland require customers to maintain a minimum of €3,000 in their account or lodge at least €3,000 and make nine payments using banking 365 during the quarter to avoid fees. If a customer is subject to fees, these can either be paid at 28c per transaction or a flat fee of €11.40 per quarter for 90 transactions. The withdrawal of free banking facilities at AIB is an effort to turn the Stateowned bank into a viable business again, according to the director of personal and business banking at AIB, Bernard Byrne. “Free banking offerings across the industry have changed significantly in recent times,” he said.

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“While this was a difficult decision to make, nonetheless it is a necessary one if we are to continue to create the conditions in which we can become a strong and viable entity again.” The new charges are expected to hit as many as 60% of the bank’s customers. AIB Advantage (Over 60s), Student Accounts and Graduate Accounts will not be subject to the charges. “The era of free banking is all but dead, as far as I am aware, Ulster Bank are now the only bank offering free banking. Consumers need to see what is available to dispel the illusion of competition that exists in Irish banking,” said Dermott Jewell of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland. The introduction of fees and charges has led the chief executive of the National Consumer Agency, Ann Fitzgerald, to call on consumers to consider moving to rival banks. “AIB current account customers who met the previous criteria for free banking should look at their statements, assess what their fees would have been, and work out whether it makes sense for them to switch.” She said maintaining a balance of €2,500 in an account which does not pay interest is the equivalent of paying €98 a year. “In addition, with no interest paid on credit balances, this means that consumers are losing out on up to €98 a year in interest that they could earn if this money was on deposit, depending on the type of deposit account chosen. Many consumers will be unable to meet this condition unless they move money from a savings account into their current account, thereby losing out on the interest they would earn,” she said. BUSINESS: 17


Mourners grieve for victims of Alpine bus crash

Coffins are seen on the stage during a memorial service at the Soeverein Arena in Lommel, Belgium, yesterday. Mourners and family members attended a memorial service to honour the victims of a bus crash in the Swiss Alps which killed 22 children and six adults. SEE: Page 10 Picture: AP Photo/Yorick Jansens

Noonan hopes to settle €3.1bn Anglo payout with bond by Paul O’Brien Political Editor Government hopes have risen that it can avoid having to fork out €3.1bn in cash to Anglo at the end of the month. Finance Minister Michael Noonan last night signalled that the Coalition was on the verge of a breakthrough in its ongoing negotiations with the troika of ECB, EU and IMF. With the Mar 31 repayment date looming, Mr Noonan said his hope was to settle the €3.1bn due by way of a Government bond — essentially an IOU — rather than cash. While the money would still

be owed, payment would be deferred until a later date. This would give the Government time to conclude the negotiations with the troika on the overall cost of the Anglo-Irish Nationwide bailout. The bailout of the two financial institutions, now merged and known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corp, cost €30.6bn. The Government funded this through a promissory note system — also a form of IOU. The promissory notes, along with interest totalling €16.8bn, are due to be paid off over a 20-year period, meaning the total cost of the bailout will be

€47.4bn unless the troika agrees to a cheaper alternative. The €3.1bn due on Mar 31 represented the portion of the €47.4bn meant for repayment this year. Government hopes of deferring the cash payment appeared to be dashed earlier this month when European Commission vice-president Olli Rehn stated bluntly that he expected Ireland to meet its commitments. But last night, Mr Noonan told the Dáil there had been “developments” on the issue earlier in the day. He said: “The discussions with the European authorities on the general issue continue, but we

Gilmore comes under fire for public confusion over household tax payment by Shaun Connolly Political Correspondent The scale of the mass boycott of the household tax left Government efforts to impose the levy branded “chaotic” as ministers ruled out extending the deadline date to register. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who came under opposition fire for adding to public confusion about how the €100 charge can be paid, insisted the Mar 31 cut-off point would remain in stone. Despite intense Dáil anger over the “chaotic” way the flashpoint tax has been brought in, ministers refused to acknowledge the public backlash. Labour TDs are furious, saying Fine Gael blocked

Eamon Gilmore: Said the Mar 31 deadline remains. moves to extend the registration deadline under cover of rolling out the payment to post office counters, with intense resentment focused on Environment Minister Phil Hogan. Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty warned that the fact that fewer than 20% of eligible households — 300,172 out of some 1.6m — had so far registered meant the courts would be swamped with hundreds of thousands of

are now negotiating with the EU authorities, and principally with the ECB, on the basis that the €3.06bn cash instalment due from the minister to IBRC on Mar 31, 2012, under the terms of the IBRC promissory note could be settled by the delivery of a long-term Irish Government bond. The details of the arrangement have still to be worked out.” The matter will be discussed further today when Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan meets with his colleagues on the governing council of the ECB. But an ECB agreement on the €3.1bn payment method would

give the Government significant breathing space ahead of the referendum on the fiscal compact treaty. Sinn Féin last night described as a “blackmail clause” the condition in the treaty that prevents access to the EU’s future bailout fund for those countries which have not ratified it. But Mr Noonan said it was “entirely logical and reasonable” that a country receiving support from its partners under the bailout fund would be “prepared to run sensible budgetary policies” as laid down in the treaty. NEWS: 4

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failure to pay cases and ministers were set to make one million citizens “lawbreakers”. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the Coalition was divided as he condemned the “confusion” in Government over the charge after he said Social Protection Minister Joan Burton had called for a wider range of ways to pay to be brought in. Mr Martin moved to pin the blame on what he called the “shambolic” introduction of the tax on Mr Hogan, saying people were being bullied by “Big Phil”. Ms Burton said she was confident of a surge in registrations over the next 10 days due to the publicity the subject was now getting. NEWS: 4

French police raid home of Jewish school gunman Three explosions were heard last night as French police began their assault on the home of the gunman wanted for shooting seven people dead. Mohammed Merah, who killed three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers, had said he would turn himself in at night “to be more discreet”. However, after authorities turned off street lights

surrounding his Toulouse apartment, three loud explosions were heard outside Merah’s flat, suggesting the raid on the ground-floor dwelling had begun. Toulouse’s deputy mayor confirmed that the assault on the flat has begun. Three police were

wounded as they tried to arrest the 24-year-old Frenchman of Algerian descent during a raid about 3am yesterday. Prosecutors have said Merah was a self-taught radical Salafi who had been to Afghanistan and had trained in the Pakistani mil-


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itant stronghold, Waziristan. Claude Gueant, France’s interior minister, said Merah appeared to have acted alone, but also claimed to authorities that he met al-Qaida “chiefs” while in Pakistan last year. WORLD: 11

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WORLD:11 CoffinsareseenonthestageduringamemorialserviceattheSoevereinArenainLommel,Belgium,yesterday.Mournersandfamilymembersattendedamemori...