Europeans will find it easier to open and switch bank accounts and see what fees they are being charged under new rules proposed by the European Commission on Wednesday (May 8).

The proposal, which could become law in the European Union in three years, requires banks to shoulder the administrative burden when clients switch accounts, such as transferring direct debits.

The draft law will also oblige banks to spell out their charges in a standardised way, making it easier for customers to compare.

The EU executive, frustrated that efforts to cajole banks into better self-regulation are not working, will also suggest giving citizens the legal entitlement to open an account.

The Commission wants at least one bank in each country to offer a basic account, allowing people currently outside the banking system to deposit cash and pay bills.

"Now, after this directive, the consumer will have to be informed not only about the tariffs, but also about his or her rights to switch a bank account, from one bank to another, from one country to another, and under which conditions and what he needs to do in this respect. So, access to a bank account, transparency of fees and switching," said Tonio Borg, the commissioner in charge of consumer policy.

Michel Barnier, the European commissioner in charge of financial regulation, said the proposal would give all European citizens access to a basic bank account and enable them to participate fully in the society they live in.

Studies by Commission officials showed that banks did not offer enough information on switching accounts and that consumers did not know what fees they paid for banking services.

The studies also found that 58 million citizens in Europe had no bank account, including half the populations of Bulgaria and Romania.

The Commission hopes that introducing a standard guide to fees for people opening an account, an annual summary of charges and a national comparison website will change this.

Consumers wanting to switch banks would only have to inform the new bank, which would then be obliged to tell gas, electricity and other providers of the changes to account payments.

The proposals will go to EU member states for their approval or possible change before they can be introduced.

Presented by Adam Justice