The Transaction Services and Branch Closure Protocol
The Protocol has been adopted, committing the industry to providing rural and remote areas ongoing face-to-face banking services for personal and small business customers after branch closure.
After a branch closes, banks are committing to maintain face-to-face services through an existing outlet, franchising arrangements with the community, agency arrangements with local businesses and Australia Post, and including in-store facilities.
This Protocol is consistent with the view from the Hawker Regional Services Parliamentary Inquiry that the industry should develop a minimum standard of service delivery as a guideline for banks in the event of closing rural and remote branches.
The Transaction Services and Branch Closure Protocol for Rural and Remote Australia includes:
1. Level of services available after branch closes
(1) where it is commercially viable to do so, a bank closing rural or remote branch will ensure that ongoing face-to-face access is locally available to its services, which provide cash deposit and cash withdrawal facilities for personal and small business customers.
(2) where a bank closing a rural or remote branch does not provide access to a local ongoing face-to-face services, which provide cash deposit and cash withdrawal facilities for personal and small business customers, the bank will inform its customers about accessing its services.
(3) where a bank closing a rural or remote branch bank does not provide access to an alternative local ongoing face-to-face services, it will produce a Community Impact Statement (model statement to be developed in consultation with government and other stakeholders – a process to be initiated by the ABA), six months prior to the closure of the branch.
(4) where a bank closing a rural or remote branch does not provide access to alternative local face to face services, it will waive fees (excluding government charges) associated with transferring accounts to other Financial Institutions that offer a transaction service at the same locality. The fee waiver only applies where the bank does not provide an alternative service.
2. Assistance available in the transition period to help customers adjust to the change in accessing services
Where a bank gives notice of the closure of a rural or remote branch, it will offer customers face-to-face education training and assistance to help them adjust to changes in the way they access their banking service.
3. Notice given to customers and the community
Where a bank intends to close a rural and remote branch, the bank will give a minimum 24 weeks written notice prior to the closure, to customers of the branch and relevant community organisations, including local government. Over the 24 week period the bank will formally address their customers and the community’s concerns about potential problems with implementing the alternative service.