Credit Union issuing refunds to 15,000 people after prize draw review

Athlone Credit Union has said approximately 15,000 people will have money refunded to them after they were entered into its members' prize draw without providing their written consent.

The refund cheques started to be sent out in recent days, with the amounts being refunded ranging from €2.40 to more than €400, according to the Credit Union's CEO, Michael Evans.

The decision to issue the refunds was taken after a review of the Athlone Credit Union members' prize draw which has been suspended since last year.

In May, Mr Evans said that, following an internal audit review, a question had arisen over whether the Credit Union had obtained the appropriate consent from members for their inclusion in the prize draw.

What was described as a "root and branch" review of the issue was subsequently carried out.

Last week, Mr Evans said the board of Athlone Credit Union had taken the decision to refund money that was paid into the prize draw by members who had not given written consent to be included in it.

He indicated that the absence of written consent related to members who opened their accounts prior to 2009 and did not ‘opt out’ of the draw.

The number of people in line for refunds was "in the order of 15,000," he said. It's understood that Athlone Credit Union's total membership is just under 20,000.

Mr Evans said that those receiving the refunds were happy to be getting money back unexpectedly.

"There are large amounts and small amounts (being refunded). One lady rang me during the week and said it was fantastic because she has a confirmation next week.

"She got €350, and she was delighted. So a lot of people got a nice windfall this week," he told the Westmeath Independent on Thursday last.

When asked about the total amount being paid back due to the consent issue, he declined to provide a figure but said it would be coming out in the Credit Union’s accounts at the end of the year.

He said the Athlone Credit Union members’ draw remained suspended for the time being, as work would be continuing over the coming months to contact representatives of deceased individuals, or those who had closed their accounts, who may be eligible for refunds.

"Once we have that all done and dusted, we can revisit the decision, but for the moment the draw remains suspended," said Mr Evans.