Bacs claims growing awareness for struggling UK account switching service

Bacs claims growing awareness for struggling UK account switching service

A multi-million pound promotional blitz has boosted awareness of and confidence in the UK's struggling current account switching service (Cass), claims Bacs.

Introduced in September 2013, Cass was designed to make it easier and quicker for Brits to move their bank provider, boosting competition. But with the £750 million service beginning to look like an expensive white elephant, last March the Financial Conduct Authority stepped in, calling for marketing campaigns to boost take-up.

A year on clearing house Bacs, which now runs the service, says that a £2.8 million publicity campaign that began in September and featured TV adverts during the Rugby World Cup helped raise awareness to a peak of 77% in November, up from 70% in August. This puts awareness over and above the 75% target set by the FCA, although there are issues over how the percentages are reached - last year the Payments Council claimed that 69% of consumers were aware of Cass, yet the FCA's own research found just 41% were.

The publicity campaign is set to continue throughout 2016, with banks and building societies committing another £9.2 million to maintain awareness above 75%.

Meanwhile, Bacs has also moved to address confidence levels in the service, which remain stubbornly at the 60% mark, well down on the 75% target set by the FCA. The organisation enlisted the University of Bristol for a research project into how to improve this and says that it has reworked its advertising campaign as a result to put greater emphasis on Cass's robustness.

There will also be a greater focus on key targets, including SMEs and hard-to-reach groups like young people and those on a low income, who tend to have less confidence in Cass than the general population. In addition, there are plans to work with consumer groups and price comparison sites to promote positive customer experiences, while the possibility of enabling customers to track progress during the switching process is also under consideration.

Finally, Bacs says it is working to extend the maximum redirection period to make sure any live payments against or to old bank accounts are still transferred on a rolling basis, until 13 months have passed with no misdirected payments.

Whether the moves will be enough to satisfy regulators is unclear. Just over one million switched their bank accounts last year, 11% down on the 1.15 million recorded in 2014 and the FCA has floated the possibility of full account portability, identifying two potential models: building it within the existing market structure and then running the additional infrastructure centrally, as is the case with Cass; or a new central utility model based on a shared platform.

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