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Banks and consumers battle to claim OFT investigation victory

27 April 2007
The pressure on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigators exploring current account fees has intensified as both banking industry insiders and consumer representative bodies claim the decision to extend its investigation proves their point.

Expectations of the impact of the prolonged investigation are riding high, but opposing groups have their own versions of what the decision to extend the enquiry means.

A spokesperson for the British Bankers' Association (BBA) claimed the extended period shows "the OFT recognises that the issue of bank account fees… is more complex than it had initially believed".

Overdraft fees cannot simply be curbed by an OFT ruling as credit cards fees were, the BBA argued.

But consumer protection service Citizens' Advice took a different tack, claiming the move to continue the investigation indicated a commitment to defending the interests of low-income earners.

"Bank charges have a disproportionate effect on people already on low incomes," remarked Tony Herbert of Citizens' Advice.

Imposing fees on customers already in financial difficulties makes recovering financial stability "like running up the down escalator - you'll probably never reach the top", he said.

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