Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

16% 'could not afford account fee'

One in six Britons say they could not afford to have a current account if 'free' banking were ended, a study has found
One in six Britons say they could not afford to have a current account if 'free' banking were ended, a study has found

Around one in six Britons say they could not afford to have a current account if "free" banking were ended, a study has found.

Some 16% of people surveyed said they would be unable to pay a regular fee to hold a bank account while more than eight in 10 (81%) said they would not be prepared to pay even a small flat monthly or annual amount, comparison website uSwitch.com found.

Three-quarters said they were against the idea of being charged a fee while nearly a third (32%) said they would think twice about having a current account at all if they had to pay a regular fee to use it.

However, less than half (41%) of those surveyed believed that banking would still be free in a year.

It has been argued that charging people to use banking would help to create a more transparent system and discourage mis-selling incidents such as the widespread payment protection insurance (PPI) scandal as banks seek out other ways to raise revenue.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) stepped up the pressure on banks in July by launching a review into the personal current account market amid concerns over a lack of transparency and competition.

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which resolves disputes between financial institutions and their customers, has said current accounts are one of its most complained-about financial products, attracting 15,000 new complaints last year.

Consumer group Which? recently launched a campaign to force bankers to meet more rigorous standards to help prevent further mis-selling scandals and said that bankers who fail to come up to scratch should be "struck off".

Only 14% of people surveyed by uSwitch said that the clarity of a fee-based current account system would make them trust their bank more while more than half (52%) believed it would be a "money-making exercise".

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed (95%) said they did not believe the introduction of charges would help to "professionalise" the sector.

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