Credit-card users will be able to see if they are being ripped off at the click of a button using a government website set up to take on the banks.
Ministers want to lift the lid on the complex, murky world of personal finance, while getting tough with the financial institutions at a time of growing public anger at ballooning profits. From next year the Treasury will force all credit-card firms to produce standard electronic statements. The files can then be uploaded by the card user to the Government's Moneymadeclear website to compare credit-card rates and usage. The site will also recommend other cards that may offer a better deal.
It is understood that the Conservative Treasury minister, Mark Hoban, and Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat consumer minister, are pushing for the scheme to be widened to savings accounts, current accounts and mortgages.
A government source said: "It is only right that consumers should have as much information as possible about the products they are using, which they can easily compare with other products to see if they can get a better deal. This is consistent with the key coalition principles of fairness and responsibility, as well as building on our work on transparency."
Campaigners and industry experts have long warned of the perils of hidden charges, and changing terms and conditions of credit and debit cards, which hit people who do not shop around. These include charges for using cards abroad and exceeding overdraft limits, and missing out on payback perks.
The Moneymadeclear website is the work of the Consumer Financial Education Body, which was launched in April to enhance the public's understanding of their own financial affairs.
The Government has made much of its policy to boost competition in the financial sector, and believes that greater transparency of the terms on offer will lead to consumers getting better deals. The credit-card industry, through the UK Cards Association, is already developing the electronic statements.
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