A report by the TSC (Treasure Select Committee) has questioned some of the Government’s proposals regarding the reunification of customers with their forgotten bank accounts.
Between £400 million and £500 million is currently lying dormant in UK bank and building society accounts where contact has been lost with the account holder.
The Government has proposed an unclaimed assets scheme which will see this money being put to use, whilst still recognising the rights of customers to reclaim the money at any stage.
The report raises a number of issues with the proposed scheme – that banks and building societies will be under no obligation to participate, and it expresses concern over whether consumer interests will be adequately protected.
It also recommends that there should be minimum requirements for external verification that the financial institutions are participating. NS& I, says the TSC, should be included in the scheme, and it urges the Government to include other unclaimed assets, such as insurance.
It asks whether the 15 years it takes to declare an account dormant is too long, and suggests that all forms of customer activity should be recognised, not just transactions.
The TSC also says it would like to see a central reclaiming portal, making it easier for customers to know where to go to make a claim.
The TSC is examining the schemes proposed by the Government for disbursement, but there is “some uncertainty about the level of funds which might be released by the scheme.” Nevertheless, the report states, “we examine the Government's proposals for disbursement, including the local disbursement option for small building societies” but they are “disappointed at the lack of public consultation on the priorities for disbursement.”
The British Bankers' Association applauds plans to release “truly unclaimed money and put it to good use”, says Chief Executive of the BBA Angela Knight. “Our members are fully committed to working closely with the Government to make the unclaimed assets scheme a success. It will be for the Government to ensure the money makes a positive difference in the community."
Halifax has recently launched a massive reunification programme, and welcomes the TSC’s recommendation that all account providers be obliged to actively seek to reunite customers with their money.
Halifax’s scheme has already seen £6 million be returned to its rightful owners.
Mike Regnier, head of savings at Halifax, said: “Our campaign has been very successful so far in reuniting customers with forgotten funds, and we have only just started. We expect to see much more success over the next year as the work of our search agents, Experian, pays off.”
Learn more about Halifax’s scheme to reunite people with lost funds
and make a claim by calling the BBA’s dormant accounts helpline on 020 7216 8909.