In particular, the report calls for the following changes:
- The government should impose a legal duty of care on banks and other financial services providers. This should replace the current requirement to treat customers “fairly” whom the Committee found “inadequate”.
- Financial institutions should be prevented from capitalizing on the vulnerability of their customers.
- Financial inclusion should be made a key priority for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). New government strategy and expanded FCA powers are needed to urgently prevent people from being excluded from financial services.
MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis gave evidence cited in the report to the committee, advocating that financial inclusion comes first. Martin said, “We need a far higher-ranking, more powerful and more invested government for financial inclusion. Because it is the foundation of employment. It is the foundation of a consumer and, frankly, the foundation of a citizen.”
The report added that changes to the government’s approach were critical to protecting the 14.2 million people in the UK who are estimated to be struggling with debt, lacking savings or having low or unstable incomes – a number which has increased by a third, the FCA told the committee that 27.7 million adults in the UK (more than half the population) are financially at risk. Check out our debt relief guide for information on free, impartial advice when you’re struggling.
Other proposed measures include legal protection of access to cash
After examining a number of pieces of evidence, including that presented by MoneySavingExpert.com founder Martin Lewis, the government committee made a number of other recommendations to improve financial inclusion in the UK:
- Legally protect access to cash as soon as possible. In last year’s budget, the government announced that it would introduce laws to protect access to cash and ensure a sustainable cash infrastructure in the UK. The committee has urged the government to bring these laws forward immediately and to give the FCA responsibility for this area as part of its new due diligence. The committee found that more than 5 million adults are still heavily dependent on cash in everyday life.
The committee was particularly concerned about the decline in the free use of ATMs and called for the FCA’s powers to mitigate this trend to be reviewed and expanded.
The report also suggested that the government should require banks to allow customers to access their accounts through post office branches and that they should launch an advertising campaign to let people know about the service.
- Make financial education a core part of the curriculum. The committee said this should have practical application and focus on budgeting, saving, credit and the risks involved, and digital banking.
Martin and MSE have long been committed to improving financial literacy for people of all ages. Read our first financial literacy textbook sponsored by Martin to reach schools across the UK and MSE is launching the Academoney Financial literacy course with the Open University.
In addition, the committee said that long-term funding should be provided and made available to support financial education, and recommended that this should be done primarily through the Ministry of Education – a suggestion that Martin specifically made when taking evidence and that the committee made quoted in making his recommendation.
- Make sure that non-digital access to financial services is still possible. Access via free phone lines and, if necessary, through face-to-face meetings should remain available indefinitely, the committee said. This is particularly important for customers with accessibility needs and older customers who may have “difficulty adapting to online banking”.
- Adjust the purchase now and pay later (BNPL) ASAP. The committee welcomed the news that BNPL providers like Klarna and Clearpay are being regulated. She called on the government to ensure that legislation is brought forward “immediately” and to further review the situation.
The committee also suggested that the government investigate the provision of so-called basic bank accounts by banks, ensure that all banks block their customers from gambling and certain other types of transactions on their cards, and consider extending the four-year deadline Help to extend scheme save.
What does the House of Lords say?
Baroness Tyler von Enfield, Chair of the House of Lords Committee on Financial Exclusion, said: “It is now more important than ever that the government put in place a comprehensive financial inclusion strategy that ensures access to cash, protects the public and eliminates scandal Ended by The poorest are overwhelmed by financial and other services.
“The government should publish this strategy within 12 months and allow parliament to evaluate it and hold it accountable for its implementation.”
MoneySavingExpert.com has requested a response from the government and we will update this story if we hear anything.