European Commission - Press release
Consumers: Switching bank accounts – 8 out of 10 mystery shoppers faced difficulties
Brussels, 24 February 2012 - Switching your bank account may not be as easy as you hope. Results of a consumer market study1 published today show that more than two thirds of mystery shoppers were not able to switch their bank account successfully. The Commission's 2007 inquiry into the retail banking sector2 identified significant barriers to customer mobility. These findings were followed by extensive consultation which led the European Commission to urge the Banking Industry Committee (EBIC) to act. EBIC established a self regulatory initiative based on common principles, which was expected to bring clarity for consumers, but today's results show that self regulation in this case is clearly not delivering the desired results.
EU Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli said, "I would have liked to see this self regulation initiative working better and banks doing more to make switching easier for European consumers. Consumers need to be able to look for opportunities in the market without undue difficulty or fear of disruption of their payments or receipts. People should be able to change their bank account as easily as they do any other service."
EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said "The results of the study published today explain why consumers change their banks so rarely. If consumers are not able to easily switch bank accounts, they cannot take advantage of better and cheaper banking services on offer elsewhere. The single market is thus deprived of the competitive drive that leads to innovation, cost savings and better quality banking services. This, in the long-run, can prove to be an obstacle to growth".
Mystery shopping exercise
In December 2010 the European Commission launched a mystery shopping exercise to monitor the effectiveness of the self regulation initiative, in all 27 EU Member States. Mystery shoppers conducted more than 1000 assessments involving more than 900 enquiries to test the provision of information and more than 400 tests for ease of switching.
The European Commission is now assessing possible courses of action to adequately address the shortcomings identified in this study with switching.
For more information:
Consumer Market Study on the consumers’ experiences with bank account switching with reference to the Common Principles on Bank Account Switching.
Report on the retail sector inquiry, Commission staff working document: SEC(2007) 106