Originally published in The Conversation on August 31, 2011

Treasurer Wayne Swan is fond of telling anyone who will listen how much he wants bank customers to “walk down the road and get a better deal”. This sums up the government’s vision for reforming the banking sector: relying on consumers to drive change. Unfortunately, as a senior executive from the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane, recently observed, someone is more likely to leave their spouse than their bank, at least in statistical terms. (Of course some people are much more fond of their partners than any financial institution you could name.) So why do such a small number of customers actually make the effort to change banks, even when they know or suspect they are being ripped off? Late last year, the government commissioned Former Reserve Bank Governor Bernie Fraser to examine how to make the process of switching banks easier.

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