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Banks need to do better

Banks need to smarten up their act in dealing with mental health consumers and people with disabilities, Consumer Affairs Minister Phillida Bunkle said today.

Phillida Bunkle says she wants banks to remove barriers currently facing mental health patients and people with disabilities in accessing banking services.

"I have been made aware through the Ministry of Consumer Affairs' Bankline of a number of cases where mental health consumers leaving institutions and people with disabilities have been discriminated against," said Ms Bunkle.

"Mental health patients have been denied bank accounts because the bank won't accept community services cards or birth certificates as identification. The problem is that these are the only forms of identification a patient leaving an institution is likely to have. People with disabilities are unable to use many ATM machines, but banks refuse to waive the higher fees they are forced to incur for going to the counter."

"This type of discrimination annoys me. I'm calling on banks to provide me with some evidence that they will smarten up their act in these areas, and I will be meeting with them to discuss options for mental health consumers and people with disabilities."

The Ministry's Bankline – a free calling telephone facility - was set up earlier this month to offer consumers options for sorting out problems with their banks and managing bank fees. Other issues that have been coming through the Bankline include complaints about high monthly bank charges, the disclosure of fees, and the closure of banks in small towns.

Bankline will remain open on 0800 43 44 43 until 4 August to provide consumers with information about managing bank fees, resolving problems with banks, and where to go if they can't resolve a problem with their bank.
Information on these topics is also available on the Internet at
www.consumer.org.nz/banks/index.

More than 1600 people have called the Bankline to date.


Contact: Juli Clausen (press secretary) 04 471 9761 or 025 89 66 29

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