Consumer surveys[i] in Australia, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the UK suggest that well over half of all consumers who make the decision to switch bank accounts find the process easy and straight forward. In Belgium, Spain and the UK this figure rises above 70 per cent.
The figures dispel the myth in many countries that switching bank accounts is a complicated procedure. The same surveys, carried out by member organisations of Consumers International (CI)[ii], show that at least one in five consumers who wish to switch banks do not do so because of the perceived complications. In Belgium, Portugal, the UK, and France where the survey also took place, this figure rises to one in three.
Consumers cited concerns including a perception that the process would be too complex or time consuming as reasons for not switching. Many also felt they were unlikely to get a better service or better rates at a new bank.
CI is calling on banks to make the switching process easier to understand and undertake.
The survey results, released to mark World Consumer Rights Day[iii] on 15 March, suggest that there is still more to be done to encourage consumers to switch if they are dissatisfied with the service. The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2012 is 'real choice' in financial services and marks 50 years since John F. Kennedy articulated the first four consumer rights, including 'the right to choose'[iv].
The reasons that consumers gave for wanting to switch say a lot about the nature of consumer dissatisfaction with banks. Consumers in Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, France and the UK all said they that one of the main motivations for switching was to get a better service or because they had a disagreement with their previous bank.
Another key motivator in all these countries was to get a better rate of interest. The costs of an existing account were also an important reason to switch for consumers in Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal and France.
Similarly, in Australia the main reasons given for switching were the feeling that loyalty was not being acknowledged, and that fees and charges were unreasonable.
The results also suggest that innovative ideas such as transferable bank account nunumbers could play a significant role in encouraging consumers to switch, with between 43 per cent (UK) and 67 per cent (Spain) saying that they would be more likely to move their money if they could take their bank account number with them.
Helen McCallum, Director General of Consumers International said: "If a consumer is dissatisfied with the financial service they are receiving, banks need to work much harder to ensure the switching process is as pain free as possible.
"While over half of consumers who switch banks say the process is straight forward, there is still a significant number of dissatisfied customers who feel the process is too complicated to bother moving their money.
"Providing clear comparative information, and ensuring the process is straightforward and risk free will encourage more consumers to switch, increase competition and promote better service and better deals."
[i] Online consumer surveys on switching were carried out by consumer organisations in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, UK and Australia.
Results from the UK were derived from a combination of two current and savings account customer satisfaction surveys carried out by Which? (www.which.co.uk) in January and May 2011. A combined total of 13,645 responses were received.
In Australia the survey was conducted by CHOICE (www.choice.com.au) between in September 2011 with a sample of 2,546 consumers.
Results from Australia were derived from a banking satisfaction survey conducted by CHOICE (www.choice.com.au) among its members in September 2011, which had a total of 2,546 participants.
In the other countries, visitors to the websites of the following consumer organisations were asked to complete the survey during February 2012:
• Test Achats, Belgium (www.test-achats.be) - 1,004 responses received
• Altroconsumo, Italy (www.altroconsumo.it) - 871 responses received
• DECO Pro Teste, Portugal (www.deco.proteste.pt) - 780 responses received
• OCU (Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios), Spain (www.ocu.org) - 3,377 responses received
• UFC Que-Choisir, France (www.quechoisir.org) - 2,580 responses received
[ii] Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organisations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org
[iii] World Consumer Rights Day is an international day of action and awareness, observed by consumer organisations around the world. This year year's theme is 'Our money, our rights: campaigning for real choice in financial services'. See http://www.consumersinternational.org/our-work/wcrd/wcrd-2012 for more.
[iv] 15 March marks the day President John F. Kennedy told the US congress: 'Consumers by definition, include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group... whose views are often not heard.'
Kennedy went on to outline a set of consumer rights which have, over time, developed into eight principles that inspire much of the work consumer rights groups do today: the right to safety... to be informed... to be heard... to redress... to consumer education... to a healthy environment... to the satisfaction of basic needs... and, the right to choose.