Bank customers in the UK are to be provided with their account data in a simple, standardised format that can be easily used in comparison sites, under an agreement secured with the major current account providers by the HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Making the announcement on Monday, HM Treasury stated that the UK government is committed to improving competition in High Street banking, which includes enabling consumers to make more informed decisions on whether they should switch accounts when they are given clear information, including the fees, charges and benefits attached. Bank customers will be able to simply upload their usage data for analysis and get an instant answer to whether or not they would be able to save money by moving to a different account.
Current account providers that have entered into the agreement to make concise data available to their customers include Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide, RBS and Santander. The government anticipates that all current account providers will make this data available in due course.
The agreement is part of the government’s wider MiData programme and builds on the Current Account Switching Service (CASS), which was introduced in September 2013 and guarantees that current accounts can be switched in just seven days.
According to HM Treasury, research from consumer services organisation Which? shows that 52% of consumers who stay with the same bank may be more likely to switch if account comparison was made simpler.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, was cited as saying:
“We’ve long campaigned for consumers to be given better data about their personal current account running costs, to help people compare banks and inject much needed competition into the market. This information should make a big difference as people could be thousands of pounds worse off by having the wrong account.
“We’re delighted the government has responded to our calls and we look forward to working with them and the banks to see how Which? could help consumers use this information to shop around.”
In addition, Martin Lewis, founder of moneysavingexpert.com, has announced that his website will seek to develop an effective banking comparison tool with the major banks. The website already has a ‘Cheap Energy Club’ which compares energy bills and helps consumers work out the best tariff for their needs.
Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne commented:
“I am determined to build a banking system that works for customers. Key to that is making sure that they can make informed decisions. That is why the government has ensured the banks will provide customers with the information they need to decide whether their current account is the best one for them. MiData, combined with 7 day account switching, means that the government is increasing competition in High St banking and arming customers with the weapons they need to hold banks to account to make sure that they are getting the best deal.”