Call for banks to introduce portable account numbers

17 June 2011

money Loads of us change our energy suppliers because we think it might get us a better deal. But eventually they all put their prices up the same and we’re all pretty much screwed. Likewise, switching mobile phone suppliers is easier than its ever been and there’s a genuine effort from the companies to retain customers.

But fewer of us are keen to switch banks, even if we do think we can get a better deal elsewhere. And the Financial Services Consumer Panel think they know why. They reckon it’s because we don’t have portable account numbers that we can take with us when we switch from one bank to another, in the same way that we do when we switch mobile providers.

The stats show that 36 and 26 per cent of consumers have switched energy and phone supplier respectively in the past two years, but only 7 per cent have moved current account, according to the Independent Commission on Banking, who never lie about this sort of stuff. They say that portable account numbers would make it easier for bank-switching and would force the lazy, complacent banking industry to up its game and be more competitive.

The FSCP’s Mike Dailly said: "One of the underlying causes of bad bank behaviour and complaints is a lack of competition and transparent charging structure in the UK banking industry. It's only a matter of time before 'trouble-free switching' of current accounts takes-off in the UK, and consumer savvy bank customers start shopping around."

It’s a great idea and we expect the banks to pay attention to the Financial Services Consumer Panel sometime before the year 3051.

TOPICS:   Banking

7 comments

  • Sawyer
    Perhaps it's obvious to both you and the Financial Services Consumer Panel, but what's the advantage of portable account numbers? Neither article mentions this. Would it allow customers to switch banks without setting up new direct debits? Can see that making things easier, but lots of banks already offer a 'switching service'.
  • Mark H.
    Direct Debits are set up using an account number and sort code. The sort code would change so I'm not sure what difference having the same account number would make. Switching bank accounts is pretty easy anyway. Most people don't bother as the banks are all much of a muchness really.
  • Nick T.
    Yeah, banks have a switching service but guess who has to sort it out when a DD is transferred but the recipient doesn't confirm to the new bank that the change has been made? You. Or rather me, as I speak from personal experience having changed from the Royal Bank of Fuckwits to First Direct a few months ago. Changing banks is time-consuming, involves too much paperwork and it's still a pain. Given that your money is 'virtual' and all their computers are interconnected anyway I'm sure it could be done in seconds if somebody put their mind to it. In the meantime, the banks will rely on customers' cant-be-arsedness.
  • Alexis
    Good idea. My free business banking expires in December, so I'm not looking forward to the hassle of moving.
  • PlatinumPlatypus
    I envision a new 'Permanent Account Number' which will remain static and link to the underlying sort code and account number, which will be updated when the customer switches. So the customer would only give the Permanent Number to persons/companies paying them.
  • Bazinga
    Keep all your money under the mattress, it's easier.
  • Don't M.
    Has the FSCP indicated how much we will have to pay for this new, unnecessary system? Changing all the banks' systems to enable this will be very expensive and the cost will, ultimately, be borne by the customer. There is already a system in place to switch DDs etc but you don't even have to use that - open a new account and just leave all the old instructions behind, funding that with one payment from your new account. The old bank (which you presumably no longer care for) is making all the payments but getting no business from you.

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