Which? asks why bank accounts can't be portable like mobiles

Thursday, 13 September 2012 04:52

A new survey has found that consumers are more likely to switch their current accounts if they can keep their account number.

Consumer group, Which? commissioned a poll which showed that 63 per cent of 2,057 people support the introduction of portable account numbers and 59 per cent say they are more likely to switch banks if they did not have to change their details.

76 per cent of people believe the switching process would become easier if they could keep their account number. More than half of the people surveyed have never switched current accounts.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: "One of the most important ways that consumers can influence the broken banking culture in this country is by voting with their feet and switching to another bank. Yet half of consumers have never changed current accounts.

"With consumer trust in banking at an all-time low, we want to see big change in banking with banks for customers, not bankers. We urge the Government to seriously look at introducing portable account numbers to make switching easier for consumers."

The survey has been released as representatives from the “big four” banks, Lloyds, HSBC, RBS and Barclays meet with MPs and the British Bankers Association at an event put on by Which? to discuss introducing portable account numbers.

The system is widely and successfully used in the mobile phone industry. Which? says portable account numbers would remove the need for consumers to change direct debits and standing orders and make switching banks as easy as switching mobile providers.

This, Which? says will lead to greater competition, better products and improved customer service and could have the added bonus of making a run on a bank less likely because the regulator could shut down a troubled bank and switch customer accounts to another bank with ease.

MP Andrea Leadsom, a member of the Treasury Select Committee which is co-hosting the banks' meeting with Which?, said: "Customers are fed up of excuses from their banks. What they want is a massive shake-up of how banks work. Full bank account portability fits the bill perfectly. And it wouldn't just be customers who'd be better off.

"At one stroke, huge barriers to entry for new banks would be torn down. Regulators would instantaneously be able to move deposits out of a failing bank, to prevent a run like we saw with Northern Rock.

“And the current high levels of bank losses due to fraud would be significantly reduced. The sooner bank customers can switch accounts like they change mobile phone providers, the better it will be for everyone."

Which? and Mrs Leadsom want an independent assessment into the costs and benefits of introducing portable bank account numbers to be launched.



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