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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 11:24 GMT
Banks 'view poor as second-class'
A wallet
Many people do not have access to standard banking services
Banks should stop treating people who want to open basic accounts like "second-class citizens," the Treasury Select Committee has said.

The committee concluded some people on low incomes had problems opening and operating basic bank accounts.

In particular, bank staff asking for excessive amounts of identification from applicants was seen as a problem.

But the committee ruled out laws to force banks to allow poorer consumers to open basic bank accounts as a right.

Banking problems

Some basic bank account applicants receive short shrift at bank branch counters
John McFall, Treasury Select Committee chairman

Basic bank accounts - which allow direct debits and cheque clearance but do not come with overdraft facilities - are designed to offer current account services to people on low incomes.

Some low earners have traditionally either shunned banks or been turned down for banking services because they have a poor credit history.

Since the creation of basic bank accounts, there had been "steady progress" in the target of halving the number of people without banking services, the committee noted.

However, bank staff still needed to raise their game, said committee chairman John McFall MP.

"Some basic bank account applicants receive short shrift at bank branch counters," he said.

"Treating basic bank account holders like second-class citizens, by denying access to branch counters, causes exclusion and reduces the opportunities for holders to become further integrated with the financial services sector."

The committee also called on banks to introduce a 10 "buffer zone", so that basic bank account customers who went a little into the red would not be hit with high penalty charges.

On Thursday, the committee released a report which said poor consumers paid the most for credit and faced financial exclusion.


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