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BCOBS 4.1 Enabling banking customers to make informed decisions

The appropriate information rule

BCOBS 4.1.1R

1A firm must provide or make available to a banking customer appropriate information about a retail banking service and any deposit made in relation to that retail banking service:

  1. (1)

    in good time;

  2. (2)

    in an appropriate medium; and

  3. (3)

    in easily understandable language and in a clear and comprehensible form;

so that the banking customer can make decisions on an informed basis.

BCOBS 4.1.2G
  1. (1)

    In determining:

    1. (a)

      what is "in good time";

    2. (b)

      the appropriate medium for communicating information; and

    3. (c)

      whether it is appropriate to provide information (that is, send or give it directly to the banking customer) or make it available (that is, make it available to obtain at the banking customer's option);

    a firm should consider the importance of the information to the decision-making process of the banking customer and the time at which the information may be most useful. Distance communications requirements are also relevant.

  2. (2)

    For example, (unless BCOBS 3applies) a firm should provide the terms and conditions of the contract for a retail banking service on paper or in another durable medium in good time before a banking customer is bound by them.

  3. (3)

    2Where a firm proposes to exercise a power to make:

    1. (a)

      a change to any term or condition of the agreement;

    2. (b)

      a change to any charge; or

    3. (c)

      a material change to any rate of interest;

    that applies to the retail banking service and that will be to the disadvantage of a banking customer, the firm should provide reasonable notice to the banking customer on paper or in another durable medium before the change takes effect, taking into account the period of notice required by the banking customer to terminate the contract for the retail banking service. Whether a change to a rate of interest is "material" should be determined having regard to the size of the balance of the account and the size of the change in the rate.

  4. (4)

    Where a firm notifies a banking customer of a material change to a rate of interest that applies to a retail banking service and that will be to the disadvantage of a banking customer, this notification should, where applicable:

    1. (a)

      refer to the fact that the firm offers a comparable retail banking service for which the banking customer is eligible;

    2. (b)

      indicate that the banking customer may move to that retail banking service or a retail banking service provided by another firm; and

    3. (c)

      indicate that the firm will assist the banking customer to move to another retail banking service if he wishes to do so.

  5. (5)

    Where, under a contract for a retail banking service, an introductory, promotional or preferential rate of interest applies to the retail banking service until a specified future date or the end of a fixed period, a firm should, where appropriate, provide notice of the expiry of the application of that rate of interest to the banking customer on paper or in another durable medium within a reasonable period before that rate of interest ceases to apply.

  6. (6)

    In determining whether it is appropriate to provide the notice referred to in (5), a firm should consider:

    1. (a)

      whether there is a material difference between the introductory or promotional rate of interest and the rate of interest that will apply to the retail banking service following the expiry of the introductory or promotional rate of interest;

    2. (b)

      the size of the balance of the account; and

    3. (c)

      the period of time that has elapsed since the firm last provided information to the banking customer in relation to the period for which the introductory or promotional rate of interest is applicable and the effect of its expiry.

  7. (7)

    The general law, including the Unfair Terms Regulations (for contracts entered into before 1 October 2015) and the CRA, 4also limits the scope for a firm to use or rely on a variation clause in a contract with a consumer.

BCOBS 4.1.3R

Where a rule in this chapter requires information to be provided on paper or in another durable medium before a banking customer is bound by the terms and conditions of the contract, a firm may instead provide that information in accordance with the distance communication timing2 requirements (see BCOBS 3.1.11 R and BCOBS 3.1.12 R).

BCOBS 4.1.4G

The appropriate information rule applies before a banking customer is bound by the terms of the contract. It also applies after a banking customer has become bound by them. In order to meet the requirements of the appropriate information rule, information provided or made available 2by a firm to a banking customer should include information relating to:

  1. (1)

    the firm;

  2. (2)

    the different retail banking services offered by the firm which share the main features of the retail banking service the banking customer has enquired about, or which have the product features the banking customer has expressed an interest in, unless the banking customer has expressly indicated that he does not wish to receive that information;

  3. (3)

    the terms and conditions of the contract for a retail banking service and any changes to them;

  4. (4)

    the rate or rates of interest payable on any deposit, how and when such interest is calculated and applied and any changes to that rate or those rates;

  5. (5)

    any charges at any time payable by or on behalf of a banking customer in relation to each retail banking service and any changes to those charges;

  6. (5A)

    2the time at which any funds placed with or transferred to the firm for credit to the banking customer's account will be made available to the banking customer;

  7. (6)

    a banking customer's rights to cancel a contract for a retail banking service;

  8. (7)

    how a banking customer may make a complaint (at the time and in the manner required by DISP 1.2);

  9. (8)

    the terms of any compensation scheme if the firm cannot meet its obligations in respect of the retail banking service;3

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  10. (9)

    basic bank accounts but only if the firm offers a basic bank account and the banking customer meets the firm's eligibility criteria for such an account; and

  11. (10)

    the timescales for each stage of the cheque clearing process.

BCOBS 4.1.4AG
  1. (1)

    3This guidance applies to a firm only with respect to its communications and dealings with consumers where a firm has a right of set-off.

  2. (2)

    To ensure compliance with the appropriate information rule, the firm should:

    1. (a)
      1. (i)

        provide an explanation of the nature and extent of the firm's right of set-off; and

      2. (ii)

        if the firm considers that it is entitled to exercise a right to set off or combine a debt due solely from a consumer, or a debit balance on an account held in the sole name of a consumer, against or with a credit balance on an account held in the joint names of that consumer and another consumer, also provide an explanation of that right to the consumers in whose names the joint account is held;

      in good time before the consumer is bound by the contract for the retail banking service. This information may be incorporated in the terms and conditions that apply to the contract for the retail banking service;

    2. (b)
      1. (i)

        on the first occasion that the firm proposes to exercise a right of set-off in its dealings with the consumer; and

      2. (ii)

        where appropriate, on any subsequent occasion that the firm proposes to exercise a right of set-off in its dealings with the consumer;

      provide general information in relation to the nature of the firm's right of set-off and the generic circumstances in which the firm may rely on that right within a reasonable period before the firm seeks to exercise its right of set-off. The FCA considers that this information should be provided at least 14 days before the firm seeks to exercise its right of set-off. It may be incorporated in another communication sent by the firm to the consumer; and

    3. (c)

      where it has exercised a right of set-off, provide prompt notification of this to the consumer. This notification should clearly identify the date that the firm exercised its right of set-off and the amount debited from the consumer's account in reliance on that right.

  3. (3)

    The information referred to in (2) should be provided in plain and intelligible language on paper or in another durable medium.

  4. (4)

    In determining whether it is appropriate to provide general information under (2)(b)(ii), the firm should consider the period of time that has elapsed since the firm last provided that information under (2)(b)(i) or (ii).

  5. (5)

    Nothing in (2)(a)(ii) should be considered as expressing a view on the validity, enforceability or fairness of any right of set-off in relation to a joint account that a firm considers it is entitled to exercise.

BCOBS 4.1.5G

The information required by the appropriate information rule may vary according to matters such as:

  1. (1)

    the banking customer's likely or actual commitment;

  2. (2)

    the information needs of a reasonable recipient having regard to the type of retail banking service that is proposed or provided and its overall complexity, main benefits, risks, limitations, conditions and duration;

  3. (3)

    distance communication information requirements (for example, under the distance communication rules less information can be given during certain telephone sales than in a sale made purely by written correspondence (see BCOBS 3.1)); and

  4. (4)

    whether the same information has been provided to the banking customer previously and, if so, when that was.

BCOBS 4.1.6G

The existence of cancellation rights does not affect what information it is appropriate to give a banking customer in order to enable him to make an informed purchasing decision.

BCOBS 4.1.7G

If the retail banking service is a cash deposit ISA or a cash deposit CTF, the rules in COBS 13.1 (Preparing product information) and COBS 14.2 (Providing product information to clients) also apply.