Abbey National has hit out at rivals Lloyds TSB and NatWest which it claims are "dragging their heels" in handing over the information needed for customers to switch current accounts between banks.
Abbey says the two high street clearing banks are taking more than two working weeks to pass on account information and in the process are breaking the timescale agreed following the Bankers' Automated Clearing Service (Bacs) Phase 1 Inter-Bank Transfer pilot to provide account information within 10 working days.
Over a four month period, the average number of working days taken by NatWest to provide account information was 24 days, whilst Lloyds TSB fared little better with an average of 18 days, says Abbey National.
The hassle of switching current accounts was one of the areas highlighted for redress in the recent Cruickshank report into UK banking - findings borne out by Abbey National research which found that 77 per cent of customers in the UK have thought about switching current accounts, but 42 per cent say the biggest barrier to actually doing so is the 'hassle'.
Gary Hockey-Morley, director of retail marketing, says: "The banking industry has been criticised in the past for making the process of switching current accounts fraught with difficulty. Abbey National has worked hard to create a hassle-free switcher service, so it is galling that some of our competitors are dragging their heels when providing account information.
"Abbey National is honouring its commitment made under the Bacs agreement to provide account information within ten working days. All we ask in return is that other banks live up to the spirit of that agreement."
The recently revised Banking Code, due to come into force this year, stipulates that banks and building societies must co-operate to ensure customers can switch to another provider as smoothly as possible. Abbey National says its Switcher Service, launched in May last year as part of an initial Bacs pilot scheme, meets this criterion.
Abbey National is also participating in the Bacs Phase 2 Automated Inter-Bank Transfer pilot. All Bacs members have agreed to provide automated switching services by the end of 2001.