The Current Account Switch Service (CASS) was launched in September 2013. It is a voluntary scheme set up as part of an industry wide programme by the Payments Council and owned and operated by Bacs Payment Schemes Ltd (Bacs). It makes switching current accounts simpler and quicker for customers. Some 40 bank and building society brands participate, accounting for over 99% of the current account market. It is available to all individuals, as well as some small businesses and charities.
The FCA agreed with HM Treasury that in September 2014 it would launch a review to consider: (i) the effectiveness of CASS; and (ii) the costs and benefits of account number porting (ANP) as a means of increasing competition in retail banking. In the December 2014 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor also asked the FCA to advise on whether a reduction in the minimum switching time from seven to five working days would deliver significant benefits to consumers.
The FCA has now published a report entitled Making current account switching easier: The effectiveness of the Current Account Switch Service (CASS) and evidence on account number portability (the Report). The Report sets out the findings of the review of CASS, the benefits of reducing the switching time and the initial evidence gathered in relation to ANP.
The FCA has generally found that CASS is working well for consumers who have chosen to use the service. The FCA has developed a small number of recommended areas for further enhancements to CASS. These include:
- measures to raise awareness of the service, such as a targeted marketing campaign;
- identifying ways to raise confidence levels in the service via the marketing campaign (for example by publicising customers’ positive experiences) and refining the targets around consumer confidence to better reflect customers’ concerns (such as an error-free switch); and
- working with Bacs to investigate and identify a technical or other solution to the problems that may occur if/when the redirection service comes to an end (this could include an unlimited extension to the redirection service).
The FCA has provided the evidence it has gathered in relation to ANP to the Payment Services Regulator and it will take this work forward.
The FCA’s recommendations will not seek to address other barriers to switching, such as those concerning the account opening process. These are in any case being more fully considered by the Competition and Markets Authority as part of its market investigation into retail banking, due to report provisional findings in September 2015.
View FCA finds current account switching service working for consumers, 12 March 2015