The current account switch service (CASS) – designed to offer a quick, easy and error-free way to switch current accounts – has been operational for 18 months, and according to a review by the regulator, it's working well for consumers who have used it. Are you one of them?
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the industry regulator for the financial sector, began a review of the service in September, a year after it was launched. The findings are encouraging: the CASS addresses the main concerns expressed by consumers about switching, says the FCA, such as having to transfer salary payments and utility bills. It was also found that the vast majority of switches are completed within seven days and without error, and most consumers who have used the service rated it positively.
However, the review also found that there's a clear lack of awareness and confidence in the service among those who haven't yet used it, which means that CASS could have a much more limited impact. Some operational issues with the switching process were also identified and will need to be tackled, so the regulator has set out a number of recommendations to ensure that the service can continue to improve.
In order to raise awareness of the service, the FCA has recommended measures that include more targeted marketing campaigns. Measures will also be taken to raise confidence in the service, such as by publicising customers' positive experiences, and it's also recommended that the industry considers various solutions to address the operational issues that exist.
One particularly notable finding was that current account number portability – where a customer changes banks but takes their current account number with them – could make it even more convenient to switch bank accounts. The report found that being able to keep bank account details would increase consumer confidence in the switching process, and that a significant number of customers would be more likely to switch if they could retain their account details – an unsurprising result, considering so many bills and payments are associated with consumers' main current account.
There are various solutions that could be implemented to make this idea a reality, and the newly-formed Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) will now consider the FCA's evidence alongside other possible innovations in payment systems as part of their work. Hopefully, it could be something we can enjoy in the not-too-distant future.
However, there's something else that could make the current account sector as a whole work better for consumers, as Sylvia Waycot, editor at Moneyfacts.co.uk, comments:
"The FCA's finding that those who have used the current account switching service have been happy with the results is to be applauded, and increasing the awareness of the service will without doubt benefit consumers.
"However, current accounts are still complicated products that are hard to compare, and this must be addressed with equal zeal. Now that consumers can switch with the greatest of ease, it's time for banks to focus on retaining their customer base with excellent service. If not, they can watch their customers head for the exit."
If you've yet to use CASS – or still don't know what it is – it could be time to get in on the action. Read our guide to find out more about it, and if you're not happy with the service you're currently receiving from your bank, start seeing what else is out there! Whether you want high interest current accounts to maximise your savings, need an account with an overdraft to help manage your money, or want a packaged account for added benefits, there's plenty to choose from, so check out the top accounts available and see if it's time to make the switch.
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