17 February 2009
A UK dormant accounts scheme
Many people forget about, or lose track of, small deposits of money in bank and building society accounts. Despite the efforts of banks and building societies to reunite these funds with their owners, they build up as dormant accounts assets in the banking system. Several countries have successfully set up schemes in recent years to enable assets in dormant accounts to be reinvested in society.
The Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act
In November 2007 the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill was introduced in Parliament to facilitate the proposed scheme. It has passed through the House of Lords and was introduced in the House of Commons on 27 February 2008. The Bill received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008.
The Act will enable banks and building societies to transfer money held in dormant accounts for reinvestment in the community, and will provide account holders with a right to repayment.
The Acts allows participating banks and building societies to extinguish their liability to a dormant account holder upon transfer of the balance of the account to a reclaim fund. After transfer account holders will have the right of repayment from a reclaim fund which will need to be authorised by the Financial Services Authority. Account holders will be able to continue their usual relationship with their bank or building society, which will act as agent of a reclaim fund.
Money not needed to fund reclaim applications will be passed to the Big Lottery Fund for onward distribution according to the spending priorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The spending priorities for England are young people, financial inclusion and financial capability, and, if resources permit, social investment. The Devolved Administrations will determine their own spending priorities, reflecting the needs of their communities.
Principles of the dormant accounts scheme
The key principles underlying the scheme are:
- consumer protection: the Act ensures an ongoing legal right for account holders to reclaim their money at any time;
- reuniting: wherever possible, account holders should be reunited with the assets that are rightfully theirs; and
- better regulation: the Government will adopt a proportionate regulatory approach to ensure a fair, transparent and effective dormant accounts scheme.
Principles underpinning the distribution of available assets through the Big Lottery Fund are:
- distribution to be managed on a devolved basis, with distribution in England to focus on youth services that are responsive to the needs of young people, followed by financial capability and inclusion. Resources permitting, the Government would also like to see a proportion of assets used to boost social investment and develop the long-term sustainability of the third sector. The devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will determine their own priorities for distribution, which may differ from those of England;
- a fair distribution of assets across all four countries of the United Kingdom;
- spending to be additional to Government provision, in a manner that takes account of the role of the third sector in the delivery of spending priorities;
- a distribution process that is fully accountable and transparent;
- the available resources, in England, used to deliver practical projects in local communities;
- distribution to be managed efficiently, with as little resource as possible being spent on administration and running costs; and
- distribution in England to focus on a diverse range of communities across the country.
Secondary legislation for a UK dormant accounts scheme
The Government intends to lay two statutory instruments before Parliament.
The first extends the scope of FSA authorisation to include reclaim funds.
The second instrument places a requirement on building societies participating in the scheme for smaller institutions, publicly to disclose information in line with the requirements placed on smaller banks by the Act.
If you would like to contact HM Treasury about the proposed scheme please email: DormantAccountsSls@hm-treasury.gov.uk
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