Bank charges case should end now that taxpayers own the banks

21 January 2009 / by Rachael Stiles
The banks that are contesting a decision by the High Court, to allow the Office of Fair Trading to determine the fairness of bank charges, are being urged to drop their case now that the taxpayer owns a stake in several of the firms involved.

Abbey, Barclays, Clydesdale Bank, HBOS and Lloyds TSB, now merged to become Lloyds Banking Group RBS/NatWest and Nationwide Building Society are currently in the process of appealing the decision by High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Smith, who said that the OFT could decide what a fair charge would be.

According to reports in the Daily Mail, pressure is now being put on the banks to drop their appeal and allow the OFT to determine the charges' fairness.

Founder of the Consumer Action Group, Marc Gander, said that "We ought to put this nonsense to bed quickly." the Daily Mail reported. "Many have got black marks on their file, and debt collectors on their backs. Some even face being repossessed for these unlawful charges. It's a disgusting injustice that is being done by banks that we now own."

Banks have been charging their customers as much as £39 for exceeding authorised overdrafts, having insufficient funds for Direct Debits, and bouncing cheques.

A tirade of consumers and consumer groups have said this is unfair, and disproportionate to the costs incurred by the banks when a customer goes outside of their terms and conditions in such a way.

The ruling made in favour of the OFT happened last April, and the test case to determine how the fairness of the charges should be judged has now been ongoing for a year. Millions of consumers are awaiting the outcome, which will tell them whether or not they are able to reclaim their 'unfair' bank charges.

The banks have reportedly been making in the region of £3.5billion a year from the charges, and stand to lose billions of pounds if they are found to be in the wrong and are forced to repay their customers.

Even if the banks do not back down and give up on the appeal, it will not mean that consumers can immediately start getting their money back, but, in hopeful preparation for victory, consumer groups are urging consumers to make their voices heard, and to continue getting their claims in as soon as possible.

A spokesperson for the OFT said last week that the courts have now come back out and a decision on the banks' appeal is expected by the end of January.

Use our bank charges calculator to work out how much you could get back and then find out how you might be able to reclaim bank charges

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