Personal Finances
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28th April 2006

BIG FOUR BANKS – FAIL AGAIN TO ANSWER CHARGES

<p>The Consumer Council believes that today’s report from the Competition Commission is an indictment of the anti-competitive behaviour of the Big Four Banks . It is powerful evidence that people here pay more and get less on their personal current accounts. The report follows the submission of a super-complaint by the Consumer Council and Which?</p>

Steve Costello, Chairman of the Consumer Council said: “The Consumer Council initiated this process with a super-complaint 17 months ago in the belief that the Big Four Banks were anti-consumer and anti-competitive.  The banks have consistently failed to convince us and their customers otherwise.  They failed to convince the Office of Fair Trading; and even at this advanced stage of this major inquiry, they have failed to convince the Competition Commission.

“For too long, customers here have been trapped by fear and lack of choice in a rip-off culture of similar pricing, low interest and high charges.  Low levels of switching and the Big Four's more extensive branch network may be allowing them to charge higher prices than would otherwise be the case.   Consumers deserve fair, competitive banking that works for them, not against them. The banks must change this shameful treatment of customers now before they are forced to change. 

“Although there has been some change in the market, more is needed.  Customers need to be reassured that any change is significant and permanent within a competitive environment.  Customers have the power to make this market work better for them and save them money as well.  The Consumer Council is calling on bank customers who are not getting a fair deal to challenge their banks and if they are not satisfied, to shop around and switch banks.  Since the submission of the super-complaint, around 25,000 people have already switched saving each of them up to £80 every year as a result.”

Much has been achieved and the Consumer Council pays tribute to its social partners, political parties, community and voluntary groups, other public sector bodies and the media for their support with this campaign.  The Consumer Council continues to work for a fair deal and is preparing to meet the Competition Commission at its next formal hearing in June.

ENDS

1. The Consumer Council and Which? submitted a super-complaint on Northern Ireland personal current account market in November 2004.  The Office of Fair Trading referred the market to the Competition Commission because it found evidence of behaviour among the Big Four Banks leading to or demonstrating weak competition.

2.  The Consumer Council continues to encourage consumers to ask for a fair deal from their banks.  Some 150 dissatisfied bank customers have contacted us for help since the April launch of our 'Stop Unfair Charges' campaign encouraging consumers to challenge their bank on penalty charges. Consumers wanting information on challenging their bank should contact the Consumer Council on 028 9067 2488 or [email protected]

3. Consumer Council media contact: telephone, 028 9067 2488. 

4. The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers. The Council campaigns for high standards of service and protection and a fair deal for all. It also carries out research, gives advice and publishes reports and other publications. It deals with individual complaints about electricity, natural gas, coal and passenger transport.

5.      For more information, visit our website at www.consumercouncil.org.uk