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Government urged to act on ‘unfair’ bank services

Written by: Emma Lunn
A large majority of the UK public want action to tackle unfairness in provision of bank services.

Research by the ‘Fair Banking for All’ coalition found that most people would back a proposed ‘Fair Banking Act’.

The coalition, which includes financial firms, charities, expert organisations, and academics, has published a policy paper called Fair Banking for All: Why the UK needs a Fair Banking Act to tackle financial exclusion.

The report outlines the evidence of this growing financial exclusion crisis, and what steps can be taken to address it.

The report found that two thirds (68%) of people in the UK think it’s unfair that some people get different levels of service from banks because of their status or background. Nearly seven in 10 said they would support a new law that forces banks to report on how equally they provide services to people from different backgrounds or status.

Creating a banking system for all

The proposed new Fair Banking Act would require mainstream banking institutions to report on their performance on financial exclusion, through a transparent, publicly available, framework. It would also create a system for clear ratings, showing which banks are doing well and which need to improve, improving market incentives and regulation.

Access to vital services such as affordable lending, cash and local bank branches has become an increasing political issue as pressure has grown on personal finances over the last year. With savings depleted by rising costs and inflation, so-called financial exclusion is an issue for millions of people and is experienced in many ways.

For instance, a lack of ethical and affordable lending provision means millions of people are turning to borrowing from expensive credit providers.

Financial exclusion mirrors societal exclusion

Fair Banking For All says the impact of current financial exclusion mirrors and exacerbates many fault lines in wider UK society, with people of colour finding it more difficult to access banking services including credit, and black victims of fraud more than twice as likely as white customers to have refund requests denied.

Kay Polley, co-head of campaigns at charity the Finance Innovation Lab, said: “Everyone deserves equal access to advice, fair lending, and services like cash or local bank branches, regardless of their background it’s basic fairness, and the public clearly agrees. It’s shocking that we don’t even require banks to measure the impact of their actions on individuals and communities, particularly those already disadvantaged. We urgently need a Fair Banking Act to change this picture.”

Theodora Hadjimichael, CEO of Responsible Finance, said: “Already tens of thousands of people, small businesses and social enterprises thrive because a community lender like a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) gives them the right support. But financial exclusion shackles millions of individuals and businesses.

“The evidence from elsewhere is clear: a Fair Banking Act would unleash impact across our communities, society and economy by enabling CDFIs and other social purpose lenders to work more effectively with larger retail banks to tackle financial exclusion.”

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