Better Banking Campaign

Send a message the ‘big four’ banks can’t ignore.
 
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01 .Introduction

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Send a message the ‘big four’ banks can’t ignore.

Move your money and get a better banking deal with Compare, Ditch and Switch.

As CHOICE’s latest member bank satisfaction survey shows, the ‘big four’ banks are well and truly on the nose with consumers.

Following the latest stand-off in passing on RBA interest rate cuts, that’s no surprise – but you can do something about it.

Send the ‘big four’ banks a message they can’t ignore by using CHOICE’s Compare, Ditch and Switch to find a better banking deal, and move your money.

And sign-up as a CHOICE campaign supporter to help us campaign for a more competitive, consumer friendly banking sector.


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Join our campaign

Sign up to the Better Banking campaign


Bank statement

Get a better deal - Compare, Ditch and Switch

Compare the market at the Compare, Ditch and Switch site to find out how much money you can save if you change banks. Or find out how to get a better deal from your existing bank.  


Money pegged to clothes line

Better banking campaign details

We're asking banks, government and consumers to act.
Read what our new campaign is about


 


 
 
 
ATMs

ATM reforms imposed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in 2009 required ATM owners to inform users of charges before they complete a transaction. It was certainly a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. Consumers continue to get ripped off when they visit so-called “foreign” ATMs – machines from a bank other than their own.

Video: ATM Rip Off

CHOICE takes a stand against exorbitant ATM charges.

This time last year the CHOICE team headed to the banking heart of Sydney, Martin Place, to launch the latest phase in its Better Banking campaign: a Compare, Ditch and Switch site, powered by Mozo. The team arrived with bags of chocolate coins and super-sized gifts to illustrate the savings consumers can make by switching to a better deal. 

Our comparison website, Compare, Ditch and Switch allows you to compare the offerings from financial institutions, so you can easily see the best rate, whether it's a home loan, savings account or credit card.

Listen to CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just explain how to get a better deal from the banks using the CHOICE compare, ditch and switch online price comparison tool.


If you think you're getting a raw deal from your bank, here's what you can do.

Compare, Ditch and Switch

Visit our new Compare, Ditch and Switch site, powered by Mozo, and compare rates and fees of all the financial institutions. Then make the switch!

Call your bank and ask for a better deal

The first step is to approach your bank for a better deal - and chances are they'll oblige. Our survey of more than 2000 members concluded roughly a third of transaction account and home loan customers were proactive in asking their financial institution for a better rate, and the majority of them got it.  Call your bank and demand a better deal. Customer service lines for the Big Four banks can be found below.

  • ANZ - 13 13 14
  • Commonwealth Bank - 13 22 21
  • Westpac - 1300 130 467
  • NAB - 13 22 65

Switch accounts

Although we'll be campaigining to make account switching easier, you can find out details how to switch accounts now here.

Unfair bank penalty fees

More than 200,000 bank customers are preparing to sue 12 major banks for unlawful penalty fees, kicking off with the ANZ bank. CHOICE is aiming to build a coalition of groups to push for greater transparency and integrity from all Australian financial institutions.  

CHOICE has already joined forces with activist group  and research think tank the Australia Institute to call on the banks to settle their class action promptly and reduce unfair penalty fees, especially on . 

Join the class action or find out how you can reclaim your fees using our toolkit.

Support CHOICE Campaigns

Whether it is demanding fairer fees from the ‘Big Four’ banks, calling for competition with the ‘Big Two’ supermarkets, or rinsing the ‘greenwash’ out of sustainability claims, CHOICE is campaigning hard to get a better deal for consumers.

Sign up as a CHOICE campaigns supporter to keep in touch with the latest campaign news and take part in consumer actions on key issues. By lending your voice to CHOICE’s campaigns, you can add to the power of consumers fighting for a better deal.


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The CHOICE campaign for Better Banking

  • CHOICE believes that consumers in Australia are getting a raw deal from the banks – and we think that is often because of a lack of competition and customer focus. The future health of the banking industry in Australia depends on a renewed focus on its customers, with better services, fair products and decent practices.
  • That’s why we are demanding action by government, banks and consumers to reinvent banking so that it is more competitive and works for consumers. We believe we should start reforms today – our members know what’s broken in banking. There are solutions that decent banks are already putting in place. CHOICE will work with the Senate Inquiry and any government review to ensure the consumer voice is heard and the excuses end.
  • The CHOICE campaign for a better, more competitive banking sector will focus on three areas: better, more competitive products; better service better practices; and renewed consumer confidence in a stable, well-governed banking system. The campaign includes a series of Better Banking ‘Your Say’ public events, so that CHOICE can ensure the voice of consumers is centre stage in the present public debate about banking, including the ongoing Senate Inquiry.
  • We are starting with a call for three key actions – for government, banks and consumers – that would make a real difference. But we will bring forward further proposals based on what our members, consumers and experts tell us.

The CHOICE reform agenda

While the economic importance of a strong banking system is clear, customers on the ground are not happy. CHOICE consumer surveys show high levels of dissatisfaction as they struggle with the symptoms of a lack of effective competition and information asymmetry. Poor customer service, high fees and charges, negligible returns from savings, and barriers to switching leave most customers feeling locked into a bad deal.

In our recent survey, the Big Four banks ranked bottom for customer satisfaction; mutual society and second-tier bank customers are more satisfied. There is an urgent need for banks to renew trust and confidence with consumers.

The Government has put in place welcome reforms, for example the National Consumer Credit Protection Code, and we warmly welcome the proposed new rules for credit cards and financial advice providers. But there is a long way to go before consumers will believe they get a fair deal that supports a renewal of trust and confidence in the banks, which is why we support further reform, based on well-targeted regulation and the proactive pursuit of more effective competition.

Our policy agenda for banking reform starts with what really matters to Australia’s consumers. We want change to deliver a more competitive banking sector that works in the interests of consumers.

Three actions that would be a start in shifting banking back to putting consumers first are:

To the government: increase consumer switching and competition in the banking market, and make a start by stamping out unfair fees.

Unfair fees and charges are symptoms of the uncompetitive and concentrated market in Australia. CHOICE has welcomed the government’s planned moves against excessive mortgage exit fees and unfair credit card terms. But consumers have been driven to taking collective legal action – such as this week’s against ANZ – to recover unfair fees.

The Government should show it’s on the side of consumers by stamping out disproportionate banking charges across the board – as the UK government is doing right now – through a voluntary agreement with the banks if possible or if necessary by bringing  in regulation so that fees are based on reasonable costs incurred by the provider.

But this is not enough. The Government should also act to ensure there are better deals around, offered by a wider variety of providers – by promoting greater choice and competition.

It’s clear from our research that the Government’s switching package has not made enough of a difference. We want the Government to move quickly and put in place a mandatory new switching scheme that takes out the hassle for consumers.

First off, anyone wanting to move to a new bank should only have to sign a single form at the new bank that then guarantees the transfer of all direct debits and credits from the old bank to the new. That would mean all banks agreeing to transfer the data upon request within a reasonable time limit.

In the longer term, we want to see the introduction of portable account numbers, similar to the situation that now exists for mobile phone numbers.

Further, we want the Government and the ACCC to carry out an immediate review of barriers to new providers entering the banking market, and to find practical ways to promote the role of mutuals, for example by better marketing and enabling access to more building society and credit union products through Australia Post. We also want to see an urgent review of where the Global Financial Crisis has left the competition landscape, in particular the competitive advantage provided by the taxpayer to the Big Four banks through the implicit government guarantee they enjoy.  

To consumers: call your bank today and ask for a better deal.

Many consumers lose money by sticking with an uncompetitive product – together this amounts to billions of dollars paid or lost by consumers every year.

Consumers should first call a customer services adviser at their bank and ask for a better deal. If they are still not satisfied, they should consider switching. Go to Compare, Ditch and Switch at the CHOICE website, find the best-rated providers and follow the guide to switching.
 
This can make a real difference. A CHOICE survey found that roughly a third of transaction account and home loan customers who were proactive in asking their financial institution for a better rate, got it. One in 10 of those who convinced their bank to give them an interest rate reduction, scored between a one-two per cent discount.

CHOICE also found that simply calling your bank can mean you get fees refunded, while switching to a different transactions account can mean big savings on fees in the future. And no one should miss out on interest by keeping savings in low rate accounts – ask your bank if there’s a more competitive offer. Nearly a third of consumers surveyed by CHOICE got an improved rate of interest on their savings account simply by asking.

To the banks: get on board.

The message from CHOICE to the banks is simple: get on board now with Better Banking before the Government is forced by overwhelming public opinion to force change.

Some banks are already cutting fees, focusing on better customer service and offering more competitive and consumer-friendly products. There is no reason for the industry as a whole not to change itself – and to make a start by eliminating unfair charges and enabling switching.

Next steps for the people’s watchdog

CHOICE has launched a series of Better Banking ‘Your Say’ events around the country, to gather evidence from consumers about their views on banking and the need for reform. We will make sure the voice of the consumer is heard loud and clear by the Senate Inquiry into banking, the government and regulators, and the banks themselves.

See all the highlights of our Better Banking campaign launch.

Angry bank customers braved the rainy Melbourne weather on Wednesday 15 December, 2010 to speak out about their frustrations with the banking sector at CHOICE's third consumer forum into banking.

 

Disgruntled consumers told of being "treated like criminals" when simply wanting to make administrative changes to their own accounts, spoke about their frustrations at the detailed and overwhelming terms and conditions attached to accounts and called on the banks to treat them like real people rather than business transactions.

 

Leon Carter from the Financial Services Union addressed the group saying that bank staff were also frustrated at the current banking system and that they often feel their hands are tied by corporate policies and company rules when trying to assist customers.

The main concerns voiced by consumers were:   

  • lack of competition in banking and complexity involved in switching  
  • cumbersome detail and fine print attached to accounts
  • lack of responsibility shown by the big banks in lending to those who can't afford mortgages  
  • big banks focusing efforts on attracting new customers whilst neglecting current customers

    "This is a key moment in time to make effective and long lasting change," said CHOICE CEO, Nick Stace. CHOICE will continue to present consumer feedback to Bank CEOs and the Senate Inquiry. Further consumer forums on better banking will take place around the country in the new year.

    Video: Melbourne forum

    The CHOICE team visits Melbourne to dicuss the current state of banking in Australia.

    CHOICE's series of nationwide community forums kicked off on the Gold Coast on the 19th November, sparking plenty of spirited discussion from the gathered locals, and high media interest in the events. These forums will form an important part of CHOICE's Better Banking campaign, giving consumers the opportunity to voice their concerns and have them included in CHOICE's submission to the upcoming senate enquiry into Australia's banking system. 

    Today's highly interactive meeting delivered an opportunity for people to share their experiences and opinions on Australia’s banking system. Some of the ideas put forward include:

    • People are finding it difficult and time consuming to understand lengthy terms and conditions and would like these documents simplified.
    • There should be an increase in financial literacy, possibly conducted through the school system.
    • We need plain English banking without the tricks and traps.
    • A government-run ‘People’s Bank’ should be opened, providing basic bank services such as transaction accounts and home loans that track the RBA’s rates.

    “Today’s event has proven a great way to engage with people at the consumer coalface,” says CHOICE spokesperson Christopher Zinn. “We’ve had some strong ideas and are looking forward to hearing more at upcoming events.”

    Keep an eye out for the upcoming events to be conducted in a city near you, and make sure your voice is heard.

    Video: Gold Coast forum

    CHOICE visits the Gold Coast to find out what Queenslanders think about the Big Banks.

    CHOICE responds to Senate Economics Committee report

    CHOICE welcomes key aspects of the Senate Economics Committee report tabled in Parliament today but calls on government to take further steps to cut banking fees and improve customer service.

    In particular, the report overlooks recommendations in CHOICE’s Better Banking report that we believe are crucial to aligning the banking sector with the legitimate needs and priorities of consumers.

    “There are places where the banks need to go further than this report, especially on ATM fees, the introduction of portable account numbers and improved customer service,” says CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications, Christopher Zinn. “There also must be no retreat from the abolition of mortgage exit fees.”

    However, we applaud the Committee’s recommendation that banks be made to justify lending rate increases above the RBA rate with verifiable evidence that the extra increase was necessary. “CHOICE welcomes the Committee’s call to prise open the ‘big black box’ of the banks’ decision-making on interest rates,” Mr Zinn says. “The ‘Big Four’ regularly protest they are only passing on the higher costs of borrowing from overseas. But as we’ve seen just this week, their profits are heading through the stratosphere, so let’s apply some scrutiny and see if their arguments really hold water.”

    CHOICE also supports the Committee’s push to reduce the massive complexity around many financial products, and to increase requirements for clear, no-nonsense disclosure documents that will allow consumers to compare products.

    “The Committee’s report reinforces some of the key reforms CHOICE has been calling for through our Better Banking Campaign, including through making switching banks easier, using the same model that operates in some European countries, and making lenders mortgage insurance far more flexible,” said Zinn.

    CHOICE has worked closely with government, regulators and the industry itself in forging a new path for banking in Australia – one that puts customer service above bank profits and removes obstacles to fair play between banks and customers. The Committee’s report addresses many of these issues and we commend the bulk of its recommendations, but further steps must be taken to ensure Australian consumers get the banking service they deserve and that the Australian banking sector should rightly deliver.  


     

    Government announces banking reform package

    On Sunday 12 December 2010, Treasurer Wayne Swan announced the government's banking reform package.

    CHOICE welcomes aspects of the package, including initiatives that would make it easier for consumers to switch financial institutions and measures that would help smaller lenders challenge the big four - two key moves which CHOICE has long argued would help drive competition in banking.

    However CHOICE regards the Government's reforms as only the beginning of a longer process of wide-ranging reform. CHOICE calls on banks to show strong leadership in making sure reform initiatives are turned into effective action that makes a real difference to ordinary Australians.

    CHOICE will keep the pressure on the Government, and you can too. Send an email to Treasurer Wayne Swan* to make sure he follows through on his promise to make switching banks easier.

    *If email link does not work, please copy and paste the following text into an email and send to Wayne.Swan.MP@aph.gov.au

    Dear Mr Swan,

    Thank you for listening to consumer concerns about the banking industry as you move forward with the Government's banking reform package. While I appreciate the plans are a good starting point for a much-needed shake up of the sector, I am concerned that measures to make it easier for consumers to switch banks may not happen anytime soon.

    I urge you to find more immediate steps to take the hassle out of switching. I support CHOICE proposals that consumers wanting to move to a new bank should only have to sign a single form at their new bank that guarantees the speedy transfer of all their direct debits and credits from their old bank.

    As one of the many whom you are encouraging to shop around to get a better bank deal, I implore you not to 'ditch the easier switch'.

    Kind regards,

     

    Compare, Ditch & Switch

    On Monday 6 December, CHOICE launched our bank comparison website Compare, Ditch & Switch in Martin Place in Sydney. See the photos from the launch, and go to the site to see if you can get a better deal on your mortgage, savings, transaction, or credit card accounts.

    Video: spoof_1

    Feeling ripped off by the banks? You're not the only one.

    Video: spoof_2

    Feeling ripped off by the banks? You're not the only one.

    fat cats

    Video: Fat Cats Banking

    Fed up with the banks' fat cats? So are we!

    Everyday transaction fees: There is nothing more annoying than being charged to access your own money in everyday situations. Switching accounts may save you hundreds. See here for CHOICE’s latest review on low fee accounts.

    Penalty fees: Make no mistake, the banks have made billions on charging customers penalty fees, such as those applied to loans, credit cards and mortgages. Have you paid penalty fees lately? We want to know why and how much. Learn more about penalty fees with this recent CHOICE study, and find out how you can claim back those fees here.

    Bank accounts: This year's Bank Satisfaction Survey shows the big four banks have not lifted their game since our 2010 report. Read our 2011 Bank satisfaction survey.

    Tricks and traps: Even when you read the fine print, it’s easy to get caught in the tricks and traps of the banking. Take balance transfer credit cards, for example. Revert rates, structured repayment and poor value products are often hidden under the guise of a good deal, as shown in a recent CHOICE report.

    Your say - Choice voice

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