Banks are failing to come clean with savers
Banks and building societies stand accused of baffling savers, by failing to provide simple information on the interest they earn on their account and by making it difficult to switch accounts.
In its latest investigation into the £700 billion savings market, City regulator the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says providers should highlight the lowest rate they pay savers.
Some customers earn just 0.1% before tax if they have been in an old easy-access account for several years, while new savers earn 10 times as much at 1%.
Providers should also make sure savers know how to switch, and they should improve the way they let customers know their rate is about to fall.
Often the rate is hidden away in long lists of numbers, making it difficult for people to work out what they are earning.
Shockingly, the FCA found a huge £160 billion of money in easy-acccess accounts - 23% of the total - earned 0.5% or less.
Its study revealed savers are also put off switching because of the inconvenience. Four out of five easy-access accounts have not been switched in the last three years.
The switching process should be made as easy as possible, whether to a different provider or to another account offered by the current one. The FCA also proposes that the maximum time for switching a cash Isa should be cut from its current 15 days.
Christopher Woolard, director of strategy and competition at the FCA, says: 'We want to see firms making simple information much easier to find. More also needs to be done to reduce the hassle for consumers to switch their savings.'
The FCA is consulting the industry as to how to put its proposals for improvement into action.
This article was written for our sister website Money Observer
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.