British expats urged to take action on banking change

by Ray Clancy on September 10, 2014

British expats are being urged to join a campaign to change banking rules which say you must have a UK address to open a bank account in the country.

Many expats keep their accounts when they move abroad, but once they are overseas they can no longer move or change their accounts even within the same bank.

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British expats have little freedom of choice when it comes to their UK bank accounts

This is due to anti-money laundering laws that prevent people living permanently abroad without a UK address from banking in the country.

The campaign has been organised by British expat Warwick Gibbons, who lives in Crete. He believes that if expats contact the Competition and Markets Authority, which is currently reviewing personal account banking in the UK, then their views should be taken into account.

The CMA is an independent, non-ministerial government department that can act on requests from those affected or concerned by the issue.

The European Commission has issued a directive about personal banking accounts, which specifically addresses the problem of expats living overseas who wish to open a personal banking account in another country.

The aim of the directive is to enable consumers who want to open and use a payment account to access basic payment services anywhere in the EU for their everyday payment transactions.

It states that residency should not be used as a barrier to accessing payment services for those who need them. However, Member States may, in full respect of the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Treaty, require consumers who wish to open a payment account with basic features in their territory to show a genuine interest for doing so.

Expats often want to change their accounts to take advantage of better bank rates. They also tend to have an UK account and one in the country where they live so that funds can be transferred, such as a pension.

This is the case for Gibbons, 68, who receives a UK state pension and three occupational pensions from the UK. He pointed out that while it is possible for the UK state pension to be paid directly to Greece, many private and occupational schemes insist on paying into a UK bank account.

In addition, Gibbons said that by having money paid into a UK bank account, he can manage the transfer of the funds to his Greek bank account to ensure the exchange rate is beneficial. However, he can’t move his money around UK bank accounts to get the best rate.

The CMA states on its home page that it works to promote competition for the benefit of consumers, both within and outside the UK. Currently, the CMA is asking for views on whether to make a market investigation reference (MIR) into personal current account banking. It will announce whether it will undertake an MIR in the autumn.

If a full investigation does take place, the CMA can ask the banks to change the way they supply services to their customers.

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