Consumer groups condemn clearing failure

Consumer groups condemn clearing failure

UK consumer groups have condemned the banking industry for failing to speed up clearing cycles under the newly-revised Banking Code.

The revamped voluntary Code, published by Professor Elaine Kempson of Bristol University, promises creater transparency of clearing cycles for electronic payments as well as cheques. Banks will also be forced tell customers if they take longer than the "standard" three-day cycle for cheque clearing.

Payment clearing times in the UK are longer than in almost any other G10 country, with some banks taking up to five days to process payments. The Office of Fair Trading has estimated that British consumers are losing £30 million annually in lost interest payments due to delays in clearing standing orders, Internet and telephone banking payments.

Emma Bandey, personal finance campaigner, Which? says consumers want faster clearing, not more information about cheque clearing dealys.

"Today’s revamped banking Code provided the industry with an opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to its customers but sadly they still seem to be several paces behind when it comes to meeting their needs," she says. "We’ll continue to agitate for either voluntary or statutory regulations to provide this much needed consumer protection."

Due for implementation in March 2005, the revised Code also includes new standards of practice in relation to credit cards and further restrictions on branch closure programmes.

A recent report by analyts group Datamonitor found the UK's branches to be the most crowded in Europe.

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