A victim of unfair credit card charges claims he has been conned out of more than £500 after being forced by his bank to accept an offer of compensation for far less money than he deserved.
After being charged unfair credit card fees, NatWest customer Craig Jones contacted intermediary firm Claims Financial. He gave the firm permission to act on his behalf in respect of his claim, but says he was contacted by NatWest who wanted to settle the issue without involving any external parties.
Mr Jones had been told by Claims Financial
that he could expect to receive more than £800, but claims that NatWest contacted him and offered just £354. He says he told NatWest that the offer was not acceptable, but asked for the offer to be put in writing both to him and Claims Financial.
He was then shocked to discover that not only did he not receive the offer in writing, but that his account had been credited with the £354 despite his specific refusal of the offer.
"I didn't know what the situation was when NatWest rang me," said Mr Jones. "I put in my claim and paperwork to Claims Financial, so I was therefore surprised to hear from NatWest directly.
"When they made the offer I wasn't happy with it, because Claims Financial told me I was entitled to significantly more, bearing in mind the level of charges paid and the interest incurred, so I refused the offer, but I asked them to put it in writing to both myself and Claims Financial.
"After the phone call, I was expecting to receive a letter from NatWest containing the offer of payment, which they had agreed to send, but instead I got one saying that they had already credited my account, which was against my wishes.
"I am disappointed with NatWest and feel I have been conned out of the money I deserve. I decided to use Claims Financial to reclaim credit card charges
because through them I could have got more of the money back that I feel I am entitled to, but NatWest has deprived me of this option."
When it made its ruling on credit card default charges in 2006, the Office of Fair Trading said that they had been "set at a significantly higher level than is legally fair", and that the estimated total profits they generated for the banks was in excess of £300million a year.
According to Darren Stapleford, of Claims Financial, many people use intermediary companies because they feel they do not sufficiently understand the rules to know when they are being duped. He says that NatWest is "taking advantage of vulnerable people and underhandedly preying on those who don't know the law."
Although Claims Financial stress that they would never guarantee anything to a client, they typically calculate that they can get customers a return more than double what they are offered by their bank, and they offer a 'no win, no fee' service.
"The settlement forced upon Mr Jones by NatWest was £354," said Mr Stapleford. "Mr Jones told us over the phone that NatWest told him the figure was the difference between £12 - what they consider a fair charge - and £20 - the amount he was charged - plus 8 per cent APR.
"Normally, Natwest would make an offer of the difference in the charges, then when we reject it they would add on the interest, and then when we reject this offer the third one would be the total amount of the charges.
"From this, we have estimated his total charges plus interest. By my calculations, the £20 a go that NatWest charged him on 37 occasions, plus 8 per cent interest over two years amounts to £862.92, which means that he was effectively conned by NatWest out of £508.
"Plus, the refund we would have looked for could possibly have been more than this, but we can’t get a specific figure as NatWest haven’t sent us a breakdown of the charges."
But NatWest claims Mr Jones 'chose' to take the reimbursement offered, despite admitting that it was the Bank that 'took the decision' to refund his charges.
A spokesman for NatWest said: "The charges applied to Mr Jones account were a result of missed and late payments. In this individual case, the Bank took the decision to refund these charges including the interest that these incurred, the total of which has been refunded in full to Mr Jones' account."
"Unfortunately, Mr Jones has chosen to take this reimbursement to his account as a means to cover the required monthly minimum payment."
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