Which? calls for 'complete overhaul' of bank accounts

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Media captionWhich? is calling for a complete overhaul of current accounts to protect against customers being overcharged, reports Simon Gompertz

The consumer group Which? has said the competition regulator should "name and shame" banks that provide the worst current accounts.

It is calling for a complete overhaul of current accounts to protect customers from high charges.

Meanwhile, Tesco Bank is proposing a "traffic light" system of red, orange and green labels to warn people how much their accounts are costing.

The advice comes before a review of banking by the industry's regulator.

Next month the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is due to publish the provisional findings from its investigation into current accounts and banking services to smaller businesses.

Both Which? and Tesco Bank are calling for greater transparency in bank charges for services such as overdrafts.

In response, the banking industry said the cost of banking was falling, while customer satisfaction was rising.

'Lost the trust'

Which? showed people different accounts and only a small minority were able to identify the cheapest overdraft.

The consumer group wants the CMA to look at how people use their accounts and the quality of customer service.

It is calling for the banks to ensure:

  • Fairness: It wants banks to be pro-active in helping customers who regularly use unauthorised overdrafts and increase compensation for poor service.
  • Control: Banks should help customers control their overdrafts by notifying them about when they are about to go into the red.
  • Transparency: Which? wants the CMA to examine data about the banks so the worst providers can be regularly named and shamed.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said, "With few consumers moving their finances to different providers, and the existing big banks continuing to hold substantial market power, the inquiry must look beyond ideas to improve information and switching.

"When it reports next month the CMA should propose changes that will incentivise banks to better respond to the needs of their customers."

Traffic lights

Tesco Bank is suggesting a system similar to traffic light labelling on food.

The idea is for banks to show red warning lights on accounts that have very high charges.

"Banks have lost the trust of their customers and it is about time that the industry took concrete steps to restore faith in the sector," wrote the chief executive of Tesco Bank, Benny Higgins.

The banking industry said it was working hard to encourage customers to shop around for better accounts.

"Over the past five years, banks have introduced a series of different ways to help customers to keep on top of their money and compare offers in the market to make sure that they are getting the best deals," said a spokesperson for the British Banking Association (BBA).

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