Consumer advocate Daragh Cassidy has called on the Central Bank to take “appropriate action” against those who are not complying with EU rules regarding foreign IBANs. This follows the decision of fintech firm Revolut to issue Irish IBANs to its customers. Revolut has been rolling out Irish IBAN numbers to its customers over the past few weeks, claiming that it would make their accounts “better suited for use” as a primary account. However, under EU law, this should not have been necessary. Cassidy has claimed that many people with non-Irish but SEPA-registered IBANs still face many issues and that the Central Bank should remind stakeholders of their obligations under the SEPA rules.
Revolut initially moved its Irish-users accounts to Lithuania in order to continue to do business within the EU following Brexit. However, in the years since, it has moved to issue Irish IBANs to customers here. Under EU Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) rules, IBANs registered in any of the 36 SEPA regions, some of which are not part of the eurozone or EU, cannot be discriminated against in favour of a more local IBANs. These rules have been in place since 2014. This means that banks, government agencies, employers, utility providers, or businesses cannot refuse to accept a valid foreign bank account number as a means of payment from a country within the SEPA region. A non-Irish IBAN number from a SEPA region has to be treated the same as an Irish one.
Cassidy has claimed that he has been hearing about difficulties with IBAN discrimination from some energy and telecoms companies. He said that it should not have been necessary for Revolut to switch Irish customers’ IBANs, but there was a need because people were having trouble with the Lithuanian IBAN. According to Cassidy, while there is a lot of focus on Revolut at the moment, there are still over 200,000 N26 customers in Ireland, a German online bank, all of whom still have German IBANs, and who “may still encounter difficulty using their account”. Cassidy has called on the Central Bank to ensure that it continues to monitor the situation and take appropriate action against businesses and employers which fall foul of the legislation, including government agencies which can be among the worst culprits.
Cassidy has argued that SEPA was introduced to make banking for EU citizens simpler, improve competition, and allow EU citizens to live, travel and work abroad more easily. He has said that a French student should not need an Irish bank account to get by if they come to Ireland to study, and likewise, an Irish student should not need to worry about such things if they are heading abroad for the year.