Financial Ombudsman: bank charges could be illegal

17 November 2006
The Financial Ombudsman, Walter Merricks, is undertaking an investigation into high street banks' treatment of customers who complain about charges.

At a speech to the Financial Services Research Forum, Mr Merricks noted that complaints about bank charges submitted to the Financial Ombudsman Service had grown from just ten per week a year ago to around 150 a week.

He also called for greater clarity on whether unauthorised bank charges are lawful.

If these charges are found to be illegal, everyone should be compensated, he intimated, within clear guidelines on the basis on which redress is calculated.

The ombudsman also suggested that the burden of the complaint and redress process should, as far as possible, be lifted from the consumer.

Compensation and redress are often only granted to customers with the know-how, time and determination to persist with their complaints, he noted, adding: "It seems inequitable that you will pay back money to some consumers just because they are prepared to be persistent".

According to Which? consumer magazine, over 100,000 people have downloaded template complaint letters from their website, which help consumers formulate complaint letters to their bank.

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