New Banking Code promises to treat customers more fairly

31 March 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
The British Bankers Association has released the new Banking Code and Business Banking Code which promises to enhance its efforts to see that banks and building societies treat their customers fairly and reasonably.

This promise takes effect from today, and is reinforced by eights 'key commitments', made in consultation with the Financial Services Authority, HM Treasury, the Office of Fair Trading and other consumer groups, which outline ways in which the customer experience can be improved.

The eight improvements include a new commitment to responsible lending, more aid for customers who could be heading for financial crises, strengthened credit assessment, clearer information about products, prohibition of account closure in response to a customer's valid complaint, information regarding how to find a lost or dormant account, greater clarity of cheque clearing times, and more clarity on credit cards and credit card cheques.

BBA chief executive, Angela Knight, said of the new Banking Code that it "gives strong commitments that banks will lend responsibly and will help customers who may be heading towards financial difficulties. The long consultation process, now complete, has shown clearly what customers want and expect from their banks. That has been the driver for these changes."

Adrian Coles, director general at BBA, added that the FSA is "reviewing the longer term interaction between itself and the Banking Codes." and that that BBA "will work closely with the OFT, FSA and the Treasury on these reviews, including bringing about an over-arching application of appropriate fairness principles to all aspects of retail banking as soon as possible."

Kevin Mountford, head of savings at price comparison site, agrees that the new rules will be of benefit to customers, but he does not think that they go far enough. Savers are still "being failed" he said, despite the Code's calls for "greater transparency and product information".

"Providers will still not immediately inform customers when they introduce new savings products the same as those currently held by their customers, but with higher rates." he continued.

"Unfortunately, until providers agree to self regulation in this area they will continue to pay lip service to 'treating customers fairly' and leave their savers languishing in poorly paying accounts."

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