Basic bank accounts visible and in place, but not always reaching those in need

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Clause 14 of the Banking Code of Practice obliges banks to provide information about suitable accounts to people who are on low incomes or are otherwise disadvantaged.

In the first half of the year, the Code Compliance Monitoring Committee provided an opportunity for Melbourne University Business students to undertake a project relevant to the work of the CCMC. The students conducted a review of clause 14 of the Code. The students reviewed compliance with clause 14 using an audit survey, mystery shopping exercise, interviews with financial counsellors, and a review of the visibility of information about basic banking products.

Overall the students concluded that Code subscribing banks have strong policies and procedures in place in relation to those customers who may be eligible for basic bank accounts. Both mystery shopping exercises suggested that bank staff have good knowledge of account products and features. However, one issue that the students identified through the interviews with financial counsellors, was that there was a discrepancy between the client base of counsellors who were eligible for basic bank accounts, and the percentage that had in fact opened up a basic bank account. The students also noted that, while visibility of basic bank accounts on bank websites was good, there was less consistency in the visibility of material about basic bank accounts in branches.

For more information about recent activities of the CCMC see consumer representative Nicola Howell’s report.

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