UK Payments Council sets two-year deadline for account switching project

UK Payments Council sets two-year deadline for account switching project

The UK Payments Council has set a two-year timescale on an industry-wide project to make bank account switching easier for consumers and small business.

The Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) has set its sights on the often difficult process of account switching as part of its push for increased competition in the sector.

In an interim report earlier this year, the ICB raised the prospect of introducing full account portability - letting customers change bank without a new number - which would remove the need to transfer direct debits and standing orders, a major grumble for switchers.

At present only outgoing payments such as direct debits and standing orders are moved automatically, it is still the customer's responsibility to notify anyone paying money into their account - such as their employer - of their new account details.

The Payments Council says it wants to make account switching "trouble-free" for customers by also ensuring any incoming payments are automatically switched to a customer's new account. It also promises to reduce how long it takes to switch an account from around eighteen to a guaranteed maximum of seven working days.

"All customers will benefit from these changes by September 2013 but they will start to see improvements earlier as changes are phased in over the next two years," says the Council.

It says the first stage of the work will be to fully review the current system, recommend changes and assess the costs.

An earlier report commissioned by Lloyds Banking Group attached a £2 billion price tag to a compromise offering that would see a database built to store account numbers that can be shared between banks to check as and when payments such as direct debits are due.

Introducing full account portability across the industry would command a hefty £5 million investment in systems.

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