The UK financial watchdog is encouraging banks to take steps to facilitate customer access to cash–such as waiving fees for individual savings accounts (ISAs) and allowing customers to end their term deposits early.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Britain’s financial regulator, says it expects companies to show flexibility in supporting consumers especially during the coronavirus outbreak, bearing in mind individual circumstances.
“We are working with the Bank of England and the Payment Systems Regulator to understand problems consumers may have accessing cash, and ensure the UK learns the lessons from other countries’ experience of coronavirus,” the FCA says.
UK firms have taken steps to help ensure consumers have access to cash, including the raising of cash machine withdrawal limits, added the regulator.
“We recognise that a growing number of people may use online or phone banking services, in some cases for the first time.” The FCA says it is confident electronic payment providers have capacity to cope with the potential changes in transaction numbers.
“Going beyond usual business practice to support customers”
“Firms should continue to help vulnerable consumers access their banking services – online or over the phone. Firms should also remind consumers to be aware of fraud and protect their personal data.”
“We welcome firms taking initiatives going beyond usual business practices to support their customers,” the FCA says.
“When doing so, firms should notify us so we can consider the impacts and offer support as appropriate.”
The FCA still expects companies to deal with complaints promptly.
“However, where the pandemic prevents this, firms should contact us, we understand the pressures firms will be under. Firms are reminded that they should aim to resolve any complaint within 8 weeks (15 days for payments firms). If they cannot, they should write to the customer explaining why they have not met the deadline.”
The regulator is currently reviewing it work plans, in order to delay or postpone activity which is not critical to protecting consumers and market integrity in the short-term.
“This will allow firms to focus on supporting their customers during this difficult period.”