[This Bill was signed into law on 14/7/01 - Click here for the Dormant Accounts Act ]
At its meeting on Tuesday 22 May, the Government considered and approved the provisions of the draft Dormant Accounts Bill, 2001, brought forward by the Minister for Finance, Mr Charlie McCreevy, T.D. The Bill has now been published.
The core objective of this legislation is to put account holders, or their heirs or successors, in touch with their dormant funds in financial institutions. The scheme it provides for, which is due to commence next April, will oblige banks, building societies and the Post Office Savings Bank to make contact with all customers whose accounts have become "dormant", ie. where there has been no customer-initiated transaction on the account for fifteen years or more. Savings bonds, savings certificates and instalment savings schemes will also be covered by the legislation, but it will not include Prize Bonds.
The institutions will be required to make best efforts to contact account holders - in many cases, by writing to that person at the last known address. They will also, on an annual basis, bring the Scheme to the attention of the general public, by way of advertisements in national daily newspapers. These advertisements will inform all their other customers of the procedure to be carried out should that customer wish his or her funds to be retained at the bank or building society. In that way, customers with low value accounts, who havenít been personally notified by their bank or building society, as well as the elderly or infirm, will be informed of their rights in relation to their accounts, and of what they should do to get any further information they may require.
If the owners of accounts which have been dormant for 15 years or more, as at 31 March, 2002, do not come forward by the end of March 2003 to reclaim their moneys, the balances in the accounts will be transferred to a "Dormant Accounts Fund" to be established and managed by the National Treasury Management Agency. The transfer of moneys will take place on the basis that the beneficial owners of such will have a guaranteed right of reclaim to their property at any point in the future.
The Fund will be managed by the Agency for two purposes - firstly, to meet claims for refunds from owners and secondly, to make payments under a scheme of disbursement to be provided for under the legislation. The Minister for Social, Community & Family Affairs will appoint members to a "Dormant Accounts Fund Disbursement Board", whose remit will be to oversee a scheme for disbursement of surplus dormant funds, based on guidelines given by the Minister. This will address the recommendations of the PAC, in their report "Parliamentary Inquiry into DIRT", that dormant funds be "used for specified purposes of societal and community benefit". In effect, surplus moneys will be used to fund programmes or projects designed to assist those who are educationally, physically, socially or economically disadvantaged
Due to the legal complexity of some of the issues that have arisen in regard to dormant funds, a phased approach to the legislative framework is being pursued. The initial Dormant Accounts Bill will be confined to accounts held in credit institutions, that is, banks and building societies. However, it is intended that the scheme will be extended, at a later date, to cover other products and institutions which may be broadly similar to those already falling within the ambit of the legislation.
A follow-up Bill, to be brought forward by the Department of Finance later this year, will cover the more complex area of mature, but unclaimed life assurance policies.
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