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Current account customers should be able to bank on post offices PDF Print E-mail
News - Banking
Wednesday, 31 August 2011 08:50

All UK high street banks should allow their customers full access to personal bank accounts through the post office network, to meet consumer demand, according to a new report published today (Wednesday 31 August).

The report, Counter Measures, from Consumer Focus suggests that if such a service was available and promoted, the number of people who could use their local post office to access their current account could increase very significantly from the almost four million people who currently do so.
 
Consumer Focus estimates the possible potential is for up to 18 million customers to use the service. The service would allow customers to make cash withdrawals, deposit cash and cheques and access information on their account balance at the Post Office. This would offer more accessibility and convenience to customers, particularly in areas where local bank branches have closed or are some distance away, and could also give the post office network a valuable shot in the arm.

Around four million customers, from across the vast majority of high street banks, are estimated to already use the 11,800 strong post office network to use some current account services.

However, currently all HSBC and most Santander customers, totalling one in five UK current account holders, remain unable to undertake any transactions over the post office counter. Of the leading banks that do offer services at the Post Office many don't offer post office customers the full range of transactions, for example they may be able to withdraw money but not make a deposit or check their account balance.

‘Our research shows there is real consumer appetite to do everyday banking over the post office counter. Four out of five people were unaware they could access their account through a post office with two fifths of this group telling us they would consider doing so if they knew it was possible,’ said Andy Burrows, post office expert at Consumer Focus.

‘Thousands of UK communities have only one bank branch or even none at all, with more bank closures likely in the future. Better current account access at the Post Office would be a win-win situation with customers enjoy the convenience of more face to face counter access and the post office network benefits from greater footfall. This should help lead to a more sustainable future for the post office network which many people rely upon,’ he added.

Extending access at post offices would particularly benefit rural consumers who have been hit hard by bank branch closures. Around a third of bank and building society branches have closed in the last 15 years, with more than a fifth of the total, 2,200 branches closing since the year 2000. There are now more post offices in the UK than bank and building society branches combined and the post office network offers nine or ten times as many branches as some leading banks.

The consumer watchdog's research shows that over half, 51%, of those who currently access their current account at a post office found the post office easier to get to than their bank. Around a third, 31%, said their bank had no local branch in the area with 5% saying banks where they lived had closed.

The research reveals low levels of consumer awareness of banking access at the Post Office with only 18% of people who can currently bank at their post office aware that they could do so. It is challenging for the Post Office to promote current account services when not all High Street banks are signed up and it can't offer everyone the same service.

 

 

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