UK banks are now subject to stricter conditions if they want to close a customer’s account after Coutts’ Nigel Farage’s was closed.
Mr Farage complained about the closing of his bank account by the banking company owned by the NatWest Group.
The reason given by the private bank was that it disagreed with Mr Farage’s political views.
It gave examples of his views, including his retweeting a joke by Ricky Gervais about trans women and his friendship with tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is opposed to Covid vaccinations, and raising concerns he was “xenophobic and racist”.
A 40-page document on his eligibility as an account holder also detailed his views on Brexit and Russia.
“Apparently I’m a risk to them.” I have almost no ties to Russia. This is political. “There is no other way of looking at it,” he told the BBC on Wednesday.
But after the controversy, banks now have to give people a reason for closing their accounts.
This comes after Mr Farage demanded documents from Coutts after Coutts decided to close his account earlier in the year.
NatWest Group boss Dame Alison Rose has had to apologize to Mr Farage for “deeply inappropriate” comments about him in newspapers about his suitability to be a Coutts client.
In a letter to him, she said she “strongly believes that freedom of expression and access to banking are fundamental to our society and it is absolutely not our policy to leave a client based on political and personal views enshrined in law.”
So far, banks have not had to justify their decision.
The government extended the notice period for a forced account closure from 30 days to 90 days, giving customers more time to appeal the decision to the Financial Ombudsman Service or find a substitute bank.
Andrew Griffith, the Treasury Secretary for Business, said: “Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of our democracy and must be respected by all institutions.”
“Banks hold a privileged place in society and it is right that we balance the rights of banks to act in their commercial interests with the right of each individual to freedom of expression.”
“These changes will strengthen customers’ rights – they offer real transparency, time to appeal and ensure a much fairer playing field.”
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