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UK: MPs accuse competition regulator of laziness over bank report

 |  November 4, 2015

The man who is leading an inquiry into the UK bank accounts market has been accused of ‘laziness’ by a group of MPs.

Alasdair Smith – from the Competition and Markets Authority – came under fire from MPs on the Treasury Select Committee.

Last month the CMA produced its initial report on the current account market. Mr Smith was repeatedly pressed to say how much consumers actually pay for supposedly free bank accounts.But while Mr Smith knew how much his own account cost, he said he was not able to give MPs any figures for other consumers.

Committee member Mark Garnier was highly critical. “The answers you are coming up with appear to be lazy,” he said. “You haven’t challenged the banks to come up with the costs. You have had the wool pulled over your eyes.”

Mr Smith said said the CMA – which is due to make a final report next summer – would consider “all possible routes”.

Nevertheless he was repeatedly pressed by the committee’s chairman, Andrew Tyrie, to provide a “bottom-line number” that would allow consumers to compare the costs of different accounts.

Further criticism came from a letter from the boss of Tesco Bank, which was read out to the committee. “This report (from the CMA) has only begun to scratch the surface,” wrote Benny Higgins, the chief executive of Tesco Bank.

“We must increase the transparency around the true costs customers incur when using their current accounts,” he wrote.

The CMA report concluded that so-called “free-if-in-credit” accounts should be allowed to continue.

Full content: Bloomberg

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