Financial Supervisory Authority survey: safeguarding basic banking services requires easy-to-use digital services and alternative service options
A survey by the Financial Supervisory Authority (FIN-FSA) shows that, overall, the right of customers to basic banking services is implemented appropriately in Finnish banks. Safeguarding basic banking services for all customer groups requires, however, that banks both improve the availability of digital services and maintain the provision of basic banking services as an alternative to digital services. The FIN-FSA monitors the implementation of these measures as well as changes in the pricing of services.
“Digital banking services facilitate access to banking services anywhere, anytime. The FIN-FSA welcomes this development. However, the accessibility and availability of digital services need to be further improved to address the needs of special groups. It is important for different customer groups to be able to make greater use of digital banking services,” says the FIN-FSA’s Director General, Anneli Tuominen.
The branch network serving private customers has been significantly reduced in recent years, while the number of branch offices offering full-time cash services has decreased. The availability of basic banking services has therefore deteriorated for those customers who are unable to handle their banking transactions digitally.
Banking costs are less expensive for users of digital banking services. The biggest change in costs concerns cash withdrawals from ATMs, for which an increasing number of banks have begun to charge a fee beyond a certain number of withdrawals. The FIN-FSA has also noted in the survey that there are large differences between banks in the pricing of individual banking services.
Monitoring the availability of basic banking services
The FIN-FSA has also assessed the availability of digital services, advisory services and materials, and alternatives to digital services.
Where appropriate, user-friendly changes should be made to digital services – namely adjustments that will improve the availability and accessibility of the services also for those customers who, for one reason or another, are unable to use them. The adjustments made by banks often relate to, for example, support for voice control and screen reader programs as well as identification tools.
The level of these adjustments and alternatives to digital services vary from bank to bank. Advocacy organisations representing special groups do not, however, consider the adjustments and alternatives to be in all respects sufficient.
Banks should pay attention to providing information and advice about adjustments and alternatives. In addition, banks should ensure that the information is directed at the right target groups.
Banks should also provide non-digital banking services
The FIN-FSA considers it important that banks offer the option of making cash withdrawals in shops or other retail sales points and actively explore the adequacy of the cash withdrawal network and the potential to increase merchant cooperation to improve cash withdrawal opportunities. Banks should also inform customers about the various cash withdrawal options.
In addition, banks should assess opportunities to expand the range of basic banking services handled in their telephone customer service (for example ordering payment service envelopes, paying bills and concluding electronic invoice agreements by telephone), ensure that the prices of individual basic banking services are affordable and make, if necessary, reasonable adjustments to digital banking services. It is also important that banks offer advice on digital banking services in localities where there is no branch.
On 29 November 2019, the FIN-FSA presented to the Parliamentary Supervisory Council a survey of the availability and pricing of basic banking services provided for by law. The survey is based on material available on the consumer payment account comparison website (www.fine.fi/maksutilivertailu, in Finnish), feedback from customers, stakeholders and supervised entities, and a thematic evaluation made in connection with the survey.
For further information, please contact:
Samu Kurri, Head of Department
Requests for interviews are coordinated by FIN-FSA Communications, tel. +358 9 183 5030, weekdays 9.00–16.00.