01.The campaign so far
The latest push by CHOICE for improvements in banking was launched in late 2010. The Better Banking campaign galvanised overwhelming public desire for better, more flexible and responsive banking in Australia.
What we want
The CHOICE Report Better Banking was released and included 14 key recommendations to make the Australian banking sector more responsive to consumer needs. The report was delivered to Treasurer Wayne Swan and the Senate Committee on banking competition as well as major bank CEOs.
Exit fees finally banned
CHOICE and other consumer groups fought off a last-ditch attempt by sections of industry to overturn the ban on mortgage exit fees. From 1 July 2011 mortgage exit fees on new variable rate home loans have been banned and is an important part of making sure consumers have genuine choice.
Make us an offer
CHOICE took direct action to give consumers a better deal on their mortgages with the CHOICE Big Bank Switch. Over 40,000 people started shopping around for a better deal as part of the world’s first national group switch of mortgage holders.
Just the key facts please
CHOICE welcomed the Government’s announcement that Key Fact Sheets will become mandatory for credit cards and some home loans in 2012. The fight for plain English and full disclosure on financial products has been a big part of the Better Banking campaign.
As of January 2012, mortgage providers will have to hand over a key facts sheet to prospective clients that clearly outlines the financial details and long-term consequences of the loan. Then on 1 July 2012, key fact sheets will have to be provided for credit cards as well.
Switching made easier, but still some room for improvement
CHOICE largely welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of ‘tick and flick’ reforms that will make it easier for consumers to switch bank accounts from 1 July 2012.
While the new service is not the fully portable account numbers CHOICE called for, we won agreement from the Government for a formal review in two years’ time, which will keep the pressure on banks to deliver much needed change.
Focus of payments systems
CHOICE sent a submission to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s inquiry into changes to the way people are paying for goods and services. Among seven recommendations CHOICE made, the people’s watchdog is calling for wide consultation with consumers on the future of cheques, the opportunity to opt out of new payment technologies and better access by consumers to data that is gathered about their spending habits.
Bank deposit guarantee here to stay
CHOICE welcomed the Government’s announcement that the Financial Claims Scheme would be made permanent. CHOICE has campaigned for a permanent Financial Claims Scheme, and made a submission to the review of the scheme highlighting its importance in promoting competition from smaller lenders.
We were pleased to see that changes to the scheme included grandfathering arrangements put in place to maintain the $1 million cap on term deposits until the end of 2012.
It'sall about satisfaction
The 2011 CHOICE Bank Satisfaction survey found the big four banks continue to rank far below credit unions and online banks, with customer service the main bone of contention. Our CEO, Nick Stace, wrote to the CEOs of the major banks to remind them of the key demands from Australian consumers, and we will be following up with their responses in 2012.
Searching for the worst banks got a bit better
The Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) made improvements to its complaints data, making it easier to identify the worst performers. These are improvements that CHOICE has been calling for, and we are asking the FOS to go further in making this information more regular, comprehensive and easier for consumers to understand.
Time to reign in surcharges
CHOICE welcomed the Reserve Bank of Australia’s announcement that credit and debit card surcharges will be limited to reflect transaction costs. CHOICE provided a submission to the RBA’s consultation on credit card surcharging, making several recommendations for fairer and more transparent charges.
This built upon a major research project into excessive surcharges that CHOICE undertook in partnership with the NSW Department of Fair Trading.