Majority favour giving dormant cash to charity

Two thirds of the British public believe that money in inactive accounts should be used to fund charitable projects, according to an opinion poll released by the Commission on Unclaimed Assets.

The poll, which was carried out by Experian’s consumer research service, Canvasse Opinion, last July, also found that 33 per cent of people believe that they have money lying dormant in a bank or building society account.

The Commission included these results as part of a new joint report with the National Consumer Council on how to regulate dormant accounts and ways to reunite people with lost funds.

The report recommends the creation of a single point of contact that will allow consumers to locate their money, to be known as a “UK Lost and Found”.

Responding to the Treasury’s consultation on the unclaimed assets, which was published last month, the new report emphasised that Britain is the only country that intends financial institutions to identify dormant funds on a voluntary or self-regulated basis.

The report suggested new measures to ensure tight regulation on the release of unclaimed funds from banks and building societies, such as independent auditing of dormant account figures from banks and the possibility for an independent regulator who could fine non-compliant institutions.

“When looking at the picture of the dormant accounts framework, the regulation side is the other side of the jigsaw,” said Toby Eccles, programme manager at the Commission on Unclaimed Assets. “The social investment bank idea was about how to spend the money and this latest report is about how you identify the money and reunite as much as possible with those to whom it belongs.”

Ed Mayo, chief executive of the NCC and member of the Commission said: “The idea that there may be money not under the mattress but in lost accounts is one that appeals to people, and this ought to be good news for banks and government who are driving things.

“But we are warning that any feel good factor could fast turn into a new consumer backlash if the right protection is not there to make it easy and certain for people with legitimate claims to get their money back,” Mayo added.

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