I’m sure we can all recall the dilemma of the 1990s when we wanted to get a better phone deal without losing our phone number. There are now plenty of ways to get around this issue, so why can’t banks do the same?
Our research has found that six in ten people would be more likely to change bank if they could keep their bank account number. Are you attached to your number in the same way?
Well, we’re hosting an event in Parliament with Andrea Leadsom MP to discuss this idea further. Representatives from the banking sector, IT companies and a range of MPs, are getting together to discuss the benefits of introducing this system, how much it would cost and how you would go about introducing it.
The idea itself isn’t new. We discussed the concept of portable account numbers back in May 2011 and you had some mixed views on the topic. Some of you were keen on the idea and others questioned the cost and complexity of implementing such a scheme.
Take your direct debits with you
While we accept that the proposal may be complicated, we think that there are huge benefits to be had from account portability that need to be explored further.
Just to refresh, portable account numbers would give current account holders the ability to move their account to another bank without changing their account details, just as you do with mobile phone numbers. All your existing direct debits and standing orders would not have to be changed and would move to your new bank.
We think the government or the regulator should conduct a full, independent assessment into the costs and benefits of introducing portable account numbers. No-one in this country has really examined this issue in great detail despite the potential benefits to be had.
Hassle out of moving?
As well as making it as easy as possible to switch bank accounts and helping to promote better competition in the market, there could also be significant savings for companies, local authorities and government departments by reducing their admin costs whenever someone switches their account.
We understand that such a system is not going to be introduced overnight but with the right political leadership, and a firm intention that account portability should be a long-term goal, we could get to the same place with bank account numbers as we have with mobile ones.