U.K. Regulator Looks to APIs to Enable Bank-Switching

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The U.K. Competition and Markets Authority is looking to open application programming interfaces to spur competition in the country's banking sector.

The CMA, which acts as a competition watchdog in the country, released a report Tuesday after a two-year investigation into the banking sector that found that just 3% of retail customers switch to a different bank in any year. Business customers changed 4%.

The authority sees that as a problem and, in an effort to alleviate it, is proposing a requirement that banks in the U.K. introduce an open API standard by early 2018, which would allow both business and consumer customers to share their unique transaction history with other banks and trusted third parties.

This would make it easier for bank customers to shop around at different financial institutions to find the right products and accounts that best suit them, the regulator said.

The authority is also asking that banks provide technical support and financial backing to an initiative by the independent charity Nesta to develop a set of tools providing comprehensive information about bank charges, service quality and credit availability. Nesta, formed in 1998, seeks to increase the U.K.'s innovation capacity.

The report comes as government agencies across Europe are trying to increase competition. Last year the European Commission released the Directive on Payment Services as the legal foundation for the creation of an EU-wide single market for payments. The directive included a call to improve competition by opening up payment markets to new entrants.

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