May 8 - Europeans will find it easier to open and switch bank accounts and see what fees they are being charged under new rules proposed by the European Commission. Joanna Partridge reports.
Switching bank accounts can often be complicated and time consuming - not any more. That's the hope in Europe, if new rules proposed by the European Commission get the go-ahead. Tonio Borg is in charge of the Commission's consumer policy. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER IN CHARGE OF CONSUMER POLICY, TONIO BORG SAYING: "After this directive, the consumer will have to be informed not only about the tariffs but also about his or her rights to switch a bank account, from one bank to another, from one country to another, and under which conditions and what he needs to do in this respect." The plan involves making banks do all the hard work when customers want to switch. They'll also be obliged to make their charges clearer so account holders can compare banks more easily. The Commission says it's resorted to the law because banks have failed to self-regulate. Its financial regulator Michel Barnier is also confident it'll lead to cheaper bank charges. (SOUNDBITE) (French) EUROPEAN COMMISSIONER IN CHARGE OF FINANCIAL REGULATION MICHEL BARNIER, SAYING: "The fact that we apply transparency in each country and allow price comparisons in European countries will bring prices down because clients will be able to change banks more quickly. I think banks will think very carefully about applying unexplainable prices to some operations." Studies by Commission officials found 58 million citizens in Europe - including half the populations of Bulgaria and Romania - don't have a bank account. It wants to change that and give everyone access to one. It has plans for standard fees and charges and a national comparison website. But it does need the approval from EU member states, and that could take three years.