UK bank account switching service arrives but full portability still on cards

UK bank account switching service arrives but full portability still on cards

A new system designed to make it easier and quicker for Brits to switch their current account from one bank to another launches today but politicians are still pushing for the industry to go further and bring in full account number portability.

A total of 33 bank and building society brands - accounting for virtually 100% of the current account marketplace - are on board and signed up to the Current Account Switch Guarantee.

The free service means that switches will be completed in seven working days, down from the current average of 18 to 30 days. Customers do not need to liaise with their old provider and get to choose the exact date of the move, with all outgoing and incoming payments, such as direct debits and salaries, redirected to the new account.

The new service could prove popular, a poll from YouGov for SAS suggests. Of 2404 Brits quizzed, 39% say that they would be put off switching banks if the process was too time consuming, indicating that million will be more inclined to take the plunge now that the process has been simplified.

The service, which has cost the industry in the region of $750 million, has been in the pipeline for two years, having been recommended by the Independent Commission on Banking. Initially the Commission looked at full account number portability, which would have cost anything up to £5 billion, but eventually settled for the emasculated "redirection service".

However, full portability is still on the cards, with the government recently deciding to make its new payments regulator "conduct a comprehensive review of account portability, including a cost benefit analysis, as an immediate priority".

The industry, through the Payments Council, is already in the process of linking bank accounts to mobile phone numbers for an upcoming payments system. This could mean that phone numbers could be used as portable IDs, taken by customers when they move banks.

Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom, who has campaigned on the issue, says in a post on her site: "The advantage [of account portability] would be an increase in customer service and competition in the banking sector and would remove the problem of banks being 'too big to fail' so massive taxpayer funded bailouts would be a thing of the past. Banks would be able to fail with no risk to customers because all their accounts could be transferred instantly to another bank.

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