Seven day switch? Try seven weeks

The UK banks and building societies implemented the seven day switch guarantee last September. Does it work in practice?

As most of you will know, the UK banks and building societies implemented the seven day switch guarantee last September, meaning that customers can change their current accounts from one lender to another in just a week. Or at least that’s how it works in theory, writes Ellie Chambers

However, it’s now been several weeks since I first applied to switch my current account from my current provider to another.

When I decided to switch my account I started the process online, dutifully filling out all the forms and sending them into the ether. After a week or so, a letter arrived saying the bank had been unable to verify my address and I would have to provide some additional documents.

This was fair enough – I moved house in March to be closer to work. So I sent off a council tax bill and a photocopy of my driving license which, for some bizarre reason, had to be signed by my dentist.

My documents were duly returned to me, with a note saying they had been copied and passed to the relevant departments.

And then silence.

Just when I was starting to wonder what on earth was taking so long, I unearthed a letter from the bank in my shared house, under the stack of junk mail and letters for the previous tenants, where it had lain for nearly a month.

This must be it, I thought to myself as I eagerly ripped the envelope open. But it was, in fact, a letter informing me that the bank could not accept my driving license as proof of both my address and identity.

A quick phone call soon sorted it out – the bank had received both documents and they were sufficient – there had been an error on the part of the underwriting department. I was informed cheerily that a decision on my application would be made in the next few days.

So, I’m not even at the switching stage yet? My application is still being considered? Even accounting for the delay caused by my buried letter, it’s taken over a month just to get this far.

One of the things that has annoyed me the most is the interminable sending of letters – I started the process online – why can’t I finish it there? I could scan and email any number of documents in the time it takes me to photocopy a document, get it signed by a dentist or other regulated professional, get an envelope, get a stamp, post it and wait.

I wouldn’t even mind verifying my identity over the phone, but why the insistence on the oldest, slowest form of communication available to us?

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that there is no point whatsoever making one process faster and more efficient if the processes it relies on are still painfully slow and prone to human error.

Maybe the banks could do with learning that lesson too.

And my advice for you, if you want to switch banks? Do it the really old-fashioned way and go into branch. At least then you can get all the correct forms and documents signed, scanned, verified and sent off in one fell swoop.