EU to make changing bank accounts free

Customers will be able to switch their account to another bank for free and with minimum fuss under draft European Union (EU) rules aimed at boosting competition in the sector, a document showed yesterday.

The draft proposal from EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy signals his lack of confidence in a voluntary code of conduct retail banks are only now finalising. "Credit institutions shall offer the switching service to any customer who expresses his intention of switching," the draft regulation said.

"The service provided under this regulation shall be free of charge to the customer," it said.

The EU's 27 states and the European Parliament would have final say on the regulation.

The shake-up is part of a wider reform of the single market and is seen as another consumer-friendly policy for Brussels to pursue. A study by the EUfound last year it was expensive for consumers to switch accounts, meaning they were effectively locked in with one bank.

McCreevy is keen to make switching easier as part of building a single market in financial services that is cheaper for customers.