Banks in the UK can be fined for not providing better services to customers once the current voluntary banking codes are replaced by new FSA rules from November, that will impact consumers' everyday interaction with banks.
The Banking Code Standards Board (BCSB) monitors and enforces voluntary banking codes which govern bank's day to day relationships with their customers in the UK currently.
Under a directive from the European Payment Services, from November these codes will be replaced by new FSA rules which all banks, building societies and credit unions will have to follow, and face penalties if they fail to if they fail their customers.
The new banking rules will co exist with those of the Payment Services Regulations. This European legislation is designed to harmonise the standards of customer service for all payment transactions throughout the European Union. It contains a number of important consumer protection measures including confirming a customer's right to a refund for unauthorised transactions and requiring a minimum speed for transfers.
According to Jon Pain, managing director, FSA retail, "Before the new rules come into force, the FSA will publish comprehensive information for consumers detailing their rights and outlining what they can expect from their banking provider."
As a result bank customers in the UK can expect banks to provide prompt and efficient service to help customers switch accounts and have their transfer completed promptly irrespective of the nature of the account.
Another key area to be overhauled is providing information to customers. Currently, some informative material about a bank's products and services must be communicated to people once they become customers. The new FSA rules will require this information to be available to customers even before they become customer, to help them both choose the best account for them, and know how to use their account most effectively.
The FSA will also ensure that the quality of customer service is maintained long after becoming a new customer. A new rule will mean service must remain prompt, efficient and fair for the duration of the relationship.
The organisations covered by the new regulation will also need to comply with an explicit requirement to treat customers fairly, including when dealing with customers in financial difficulty and when processing payments.
The greater enforcement powers of the FSA, when compared with the BCSB, will also have a deterrent effect that was missing in the voluntary codes. The FSA can, and will where appropriate, fine firms if they fail to comply with the new rules to the detriment of their customers.
Areas of retail banking which fall outside the FSA's remit, such as overdrafts and credit card lending, will continue to be regulated under the Consumer Credit Act.