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Press releases 2010 -

OFT secures improvements for cash ISA customers following super-complaint

financial words

69/10    29 June 2010

The OFT today announced greater transparency over interest rates and a significant reduction in the time it should take to transfer between cash ISA providers, following agreements with the industry.

The changes come as part of the OFT's response to a super-complaint from Consumer Focus about the cash ISA market. Consumer Focus asked the OFT to look at concerns including the time it takes to transfer a cash ISA, the transparency of interest rates and introductory bonus rates.

After a 90-day investigation, the OFT has secured agreement from the industry to:

  • publish clearly the interest rates on the face of cash ISA statements - around 15 per cent of customers currently receive statements that include their interest rate, but from early 2012 all statements will include this information, and
  • revise industry guidelines on how long cash ISA transfers should take: down from 23 to 15 working days - this will come into effect from 31 December 2010.

To ensure that the new transfer timelines are adhered to and to prevent consumers losing out from delays, the OFT today recommended that:

  • HM Revenue & Customs and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) change their guidance to reflect the revised industry guidelines 
  • the FSA considers taking regulatory action if the industry fails to keep to the new timescales, and
  • providers ensure that, if delays occur, consumers are no worse off than they would have been if the timelines had been met.

The OFT found that introductory bonus rates were not causing substantial harm to consumers since the existence of such rates is clear to consumers and they are informed when the introductory bonus rates end. The greater transparency and quicker transfers announced today will help consumers to know their interest rate so that they can compare offers, and switch to better deals more easily and quickly if they wish to do so.

Clive Maxwell, the OFT's Senior Director for Services, said:

'This is an important market for the 17.5 million consumers with £143 billion of savings in cash ISAs, and also for the wider economy since those savings support lending to many households and businesses. Our work over the past 90 days has revealed that, whilst there is often strong competition between providers in this market to win new savings, the transfer of cash ISAs is taking too long and there is not enough transparency over interest rates. The voluntary changes announced today will give consumers a fairer deal and drive stronger competition. We are grateful to Consumer Focus for bringing these issues to our attention.'

NOTES

  1. Download a copy of the OFT's response to the Consumer Focus super-complaint (pdf 912kb).
  2. The Enterprise Act 2002 (the Act) makes provision for designated consumer bodies to make super-complaints. A super-complaint, as defined by section 11(1) of the Act, is a complaint submitted by a designated consumer body that 'any feature, or combination of features, of a market in the United Kingdom for goods or services is or appears to be significantly harming the interests of consumers'. Consumer Focus is a designated consumer body. Within 90 days after the day on which a super-complaint is received, the OFT must say publicly how it proposes to deal with it.
  3. The OFT is consulting on its decision not to make a market investigation reference regarding cash ISAs. For more information, see the consultation page
  4. For more information please see the super complaints area of the OFT website.
  5. Download a  copy of the Consumer Focus super-complaint document (pdf 995kb).



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