Competition – press release

CMA paves the way for Open Banking revolution

A package of measures being imposed by the CMA will ensure banks work harder for customers and the benefits of new technology are fully exploited.

The final report of the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) retail banking market investigation, published today, concludes that older and larger banks do not have to compete hard enough for customers’ business, and smaller and newer banks find it difficult to grow. This means that many people are paying more than they should and are not benefiting from new services.

To tackle these problems, the CMA is implementing a wide-reaching package of reforms. Central to the CMA’s remedies are measures to ensure that customers benefit from technological advances and that new entrants and smaller providers are able to compete more fairly. The key measures, which will benefit personal and small business customers, include:

  • Requiring banks to implement Open Banking by early 2018, to accelerate technological change in the UK retail banking sector. Open Banking will enable personal customers and small businesses to share their data securely with other banks and with third parties, enabling them to manage their accounts with multiple providers through a single digital ‘app’, to take more control of their funds (for example to avoid overdraft charges and manage cashflow) and to compare products on the basis of their own requirements.
  • Requiring banks to publish trustworthy and objective information on quality of service on their websites and in branches, so that customers can see how their own bank shapes up. Whether a personal customer or small business is willing to recommend their bank to friends, family and colleagues will be a core measure but we will also be requiring banks to publish and make available through Open Banking a range of other quality measures.
  • Requiring banks to send out suitable periodic and event-based ‘prompts’ such as on the closure of a local branch or an increase in charges, to remind their customers to review whether they are getting the best value and switch banks if not. Unlike many other financial products such as home insurance, current accounts do not have annual renewal dates to act as natural reminders and other possible triggers like business growth are not prompting customers to review what they are getting from their bank.

Underpinning these remedies, the CMA is introducing further measures to make it easier for customers to search and switch. At the moment only 3% of personal and 4% of business customers switch to a different bank in any year. This is despite, for example, personal customers in Great Britain being able to save £92 on average per year by switching provider, with savings of around £80 a year on average available for small businesses. Larger savings are available for overdraft users – for example, personal customers who are overdrawn for one or two weeks every month could save £180 per year on average.

The CMA has also introduced specific measures to benefit unarranged overdraft users, who make up around 25% of all personal current account customers, and small businesses.

  • Banks make £1.2 billion a year from unarranged overdraft charges. Banks will be required to send alerts to customers going into unarranged overdraft, and inform them of a grace period, to avoid charges – research by the FCA has shown that this type of alert, when combined with mobile banking, can heavily reduce overdraft charges. Banks will also have to set a monthly cap on unarranged charges, and tell their customers about it.
  • The CMA found that small businesses lack tools providing comprehensive information about bank charges, service quality and credit availability. The CMA is throwing its weight behind the independent charity Nesta in a new initiative to put this right, requiring banks to provide Nesta with financial backing and technical support, alongside introducing a range of other measures targeted at small businesses such as a loan eligibility tool.

Alasdair Smith, Chair of the retail banking investigation, said:

The reforms we have announced today will shake up retail banking for years to come, and ensure that both personal customers and small businesses get a better deal from their banks.

We are breaking down the barriers which have made it too easy for established banks to hold on to their customers. Our reforms will increase innovation and competition in a sector whose performance is crucial for the UK economy.

Our central reform is the Open Banking programme to harness the technological changes which we have seen transform other markets. We want customers to be able to access new and innovative apps which will tailor services, information and advice to their individual needs.

This is backed up by a wide package of measures to improve the current account switching service, to make it easier for small businesses to shop around and open new accounts or get a loan, and to see how the quality of service provided by your bank compares with other providers.

We are also taking measures to give customers much greater control over their overdraft charges, so that they are clearly told when they are about to be incurred and have an opportunity to avoid them. Alongside this, banks will have to cap their monthly charges for unarranged overdrafts.

The CMA will now focus on putting in place the remedies announced today, working with others whose role it is to make individual remedies happen, such as HM Treasury, FCA, Bacs and Nesta. See a list of the main remedies (PDF, 75.4KB, 1 page) .

Notes for editors

  1. The CMA has also today published its final decisions on its review of pre-existing measures – the review of the 2002 SME banking undertakings and the 2008 Northern Ireland personal current account order.
  2. The members of the Retail Banking Market Investigation Group are Alasdair Smith, Tom Hoehn, Philip Marsden, Jill May and Ed Smith.
  3. See the retail banking investigation case page for more information and our short overview, infographics illustrating some of our proposals and visuals.
  4. For CMA updates, follow us on Twitter @CMAgovuk, Flickr and LinkedIn.
  5. Enquiries should be directed to Kasia Reardon (kasia.reardon@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 020 3738 6901) or Simon Belgard (simon.belgard@cma.gsi.gov.uk, 0203 738 6472).