The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published its long-awaited final recommendations for the UK's banking sector.
Since the probe first launched in July 2014, the competition watchdog has faced intense scrutiny from all sides, with smaller institutions hoping the CMA will break up the “Big Five” banks – RBS, Lloyds, HSBC, Santander and Barclays – which dominate the space.
While the CMA hasn't gone quite that far, there's a lot of fat to chew in today's report. So what do you need to know?
|Banking revolution? CMA report in detail|
1. There's a lot of love for mobile
The watchdog has come out hugely in favour of mobile banking services, and set a deadline of 2018 for banks to comply with its Open Banking regime.
That means they will have to provide support for smartphone apps to allow customers to shop around for the best bank account by listing how they charge for banking services.
Similarly, customers should be able to see all of their financial products – mortgages, savings, current accounts and more – in one app, regardless of whether they actually come from a single provider.
2. There will be caps on overdraft charges
Some campaigners had hoped the CMA would set a new limit on charges for unauthorised overdrafts, but the watchdog has stopped short.
Instead, it will require banks to set their own overdraft limits (although some already do this) and make them more public so consumers can better compare, and theoretically switch to banks offering a better deal.
In addition, banks will be forced to to send alerts to customers going into the red (again, some banks already provide this service) and give consumers a grace period to avoid any charges.
Banks make £1.2bn a year from unauthorised overdraft fees, and CMA retail banking chair Alasdair Smith said in May that the watchdog will consider halving that figure “a good outcome”.
3. It reckons it can save you £92 a year
Figures from the watchdog estimate 90 per cent of the UK's banking customers will gain from switching their current account.
And for the average customer, switching to one of the five cheapest products could save them £92 a year.
For customers on packaged accounts, half of customers can gain by switching and the average gain tends to be higher at just under £170 per year.
However, the number of people who move their accounts is tiny – just three per cent of personal and four per cent of business customers switch to a different bank in any year.
4. Challenger banks are furious
Metro Bank and TSB have already come out this morning to complain the CMA has not gone far enough.
They argued the market is still fundamentally stacked against challengers, either because of onerous capital requirements, or because the CMA hasn't forced banks to publish charges associated with “free-when-in-credit” accounts.
And consumer champion Which? is on their side, too - policy and campaigns director Alex Neill has questioned whether the measures will ensure banks deliver better service.
“It is disappointing that the monthly charge cap is not actually a cap and banks will be allowed to continue to charge exorbitant fees for so called unauthorised overdrafts, rather than protect those customers that have been identified as among the most vulnerable,” Neill said.