Attempt to revamp retail banking was "feeble", Treasury committee hears

Hayley Kirton
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A person using an ATM
Challengers were disappointed when the CMA seemed more keen on tech than red tape (Source: Getty)

Recent efforts to improve banking for customers have been weak, the man at the helm of a leading consumer interest body has said today.

Speaking in front of the Treasury Select Committee today, Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, slammed the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) recent report into the retail banking sector as "feeble", remarking it has done little to increase competition in the sector.

Vicary-Smith noted he was also disappointed with the CMA report's lack of drive to increase transparency and ease of product comparison across banking, adding this was commonplace for the majority of other consumer goods and services.

"I always struggle to see why banking should be such a different industry from everything else," Vicary-Smith added.

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When the CMA published its long-awaited report in August, numerous challenger banks were quick to hit back at the findings, claiming the watchdog had squandered a precious opportunity to increase competition in the banking industry.

In particular, the up-and-coming banks expressed disappointment that the report had focused on technology, glossing over some of the issues with red tape which made the sector difficult for smaller players to break into.

Also speaking to the Treasury Committee, Mark Mullen, chief executive of Atom Bank, noted the CMA report "proposes remedies that I don't think go far enough".

David McCreadie, managing director of Tesco Bank, added: "Many customers today think all banks are the same."

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This is not the first time finance sector experts have appeared before the influential committee to air their complaints on the CMA's work. In an earlier hearing to discuss the interim versions of the report, Enlightenment Economics founder, professor Diane Coyle, told MPs: “I could weep with disappointment. This opportunity looks like it is being squandered.

A CMA spokesperson said:

We're introducing a powerful package of measures to make banks work harder for their customers and make the market much more competitive. We’ve made 17 bold recommendations, including the development of Open Banking....We will be helping customers to compare the quality of service they get from their bank with other banks. Taken together we expect this to deliver benefits to customers of between £700m - £1bn within 5 years of implementation.