Time limit set on bank charges case

23 May 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
An investigation by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) into the fairness of bank overdraft charges is expected to be carried out by the end of this year, the BBC has reported.

According to the BBC, case judge Mr Justice Andrew Smith had previously found the OFT's unknown time limit for its investigation insufficient, and the new time frame has been set under pressure from the High Court judge.

Earlier this month Mr Justice Smith ruled in favour of the OFT which is seeking to confirm whether or not bank charges are fair. However, the banks involved will appeal against his first ruling, and, if successful, any decision of unfairness could be rendered void.

The banks earn an estimated £3.5billion a year through overdraft charges so the appeal comes as no surprise as banks struggle to keep afloat during the credit crisis.

However, consumers are now expecting a long wait as the appeal could last into next year. Commenting on the appeal, principle consultant of banking for Defaqto, David Black, said: "The stakes for both sides are extremely high so this has all the hallmarks of being a very lengthy judicial process. Next step is the Court of Appeal and after that the House of Lords and maybe even Europe.

"If the original judgement is ultimately upheld and a substantive hearing rules that the charges are unfairly high the most likely outcome is that a cap will be placed on the charges but, crucially, the banks will still be entitled to make an element of profit in the fees charged."

Head of personal finance at Fool.co.uk, David Kuo urged consumers to act fast with claims, saying: "The BBA has confirmed that banks will appeal against the High Court ruling on unfair charges. Customers can't stop them from doing this. But they can stop the clock from counting down the time allowed to submit their own claims.

"Banks know that time is money, which is why they are appealing – they want to hang on to your money for as long as possible. But bank customers can get their own back. Submit your claims without delay so you can get your refund in full when banks run out of time and options." he added.

©Fair Investment Company Ltd