July 21, 2015 / 10:26 PM / 5 years ago

More Britons ditch their banks after new rules make switching easier

Customers use ATM machines at the Surrey Quays branch of Santander Bank, south London, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) - New rules making it easier for Britons to switch banks resulted in a 4 percent increase in customers moving accounts in the year to the end of June, the body overseeing the system said on Wednesday.

Data from Bacs showed that there were 1.1 million switches compared with 1.06 million over the same period one year before.

The new rules, introduced in October 2013, ensure customers can switch accounts within seven working days, with all outgoing and incoming payments automatically transferred. Bacs said 69 percent of Britons were now aware of the service compared with 58 percent in the month of its launch.

The rules are part of measures designed to break the dominance of Britain’s five biggest banks - Lloyds (LLOY.L), RBS (RBS.L), Barclays (BARC.L), HSBC (HSBA.L) and Santander UK (SAN.MC) - which provide more than four out of five UK personal current accounts.

Britain’s competition watchdog is investigating whether there is effective competition in the market for personal current accounts and is due to report its findings by the end of September.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said in November that banks had not done enough to meet the needs of retail customers or small businesses. It could recommend banks are broken up to increase competition.

Santander (SAN.MC) attracted the most new net accounts, followed by Halifax, which is owned by Lloyds while Barclays (BARC.L) and NatWest, owned by RBS, lost the most customers.

Santander has benefited from the popularity of its 1-2-3 current account, which pays higher-than-average interest rates on deposits of up to 20,000 pounds. Halifax has offered cash payments to new customers.

Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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