Watchdog to launch super-complaint over cash ISA rip-off

Maya Driver

Since we taxpayers kindly bailed many of Britain's banks out of a deep financial hole, it would be nice to imagine they now had our best interests at heart. But when it comes to savings, it seems the UK's financial giants aren't giving us quite the best deal.

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According to financial watchdog Consumer Focus, Brits saving via cash ISAs are losing billions in interest thanks to the "unfair obstacles" put in place by providers that mean consumers are less likely to move their cash to accounts with better interest rates.

The consumer group warned that savers could be losing between £1.5bn and £3bn each year thanks to ISAs with poor interest rates and is preparing to launch a super-complaint to the Office of Fair Trading.

Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Consumer Focus, told The Telegraph: "Cash ISAs are designed to encourage long-term savings but many people find their rates slashed to next to nothing after a relatively short time. Providers are using inertia and confusion to drop ISA rates faster than on other accounts."

Current Government guidelines recommend that money transfers should be carried out within 28 days but one third of those switching ISAs claimed it took longer than five weeks. And since many providers use what Consumer Focus calls "bait pricing" - whereby short-term bonuses lure savers in before interest rates plummet - Brits could be losing out by being effectively "locked in" to accounts averaging just 0.41 per cent interest.

But that's not all. The watchdog also raised the issue of banks and building societies launching new ISAs. Providers often launch a new ISA each tax year and merely change the issue number which can leave savers struggling to find out which version they have and what interest rate they are getting.

Since it's launch in 1999, the cash ISA market is now worth £158 billion and yet banks are still failing to give customers a fair deal.

Have you found yourself "locked in" to a cash ISA or have you moved to a regular savings account to find that it pays better interest?