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Judge issues warning for banks

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15/05/2007

A High Court judge has issued a stark warning to high street banks to stop behaving unreasonably in their dealings with unsatisfied customers.  The reprimand from Judge David Mackie refers specifically to banks’ treatment of those customers attempting to reclaim ‘unfair’ overdraft charges.  He accused some of the banks as wasting both customers’ and the court’s time, by making out they would legally defend themselves against such complaints, when in reality they have no plans to follow through. 

Mackie said that he would consider awarding damages against banks that continue to act in this way. Thousands of people have attempted to reclaim some or all of the overdraft fees levied on their accounts, since the Office of Fair Trading ruled that banks had been grossly overcharging customers for many years. 

Many banks have refunded fees, but all have resisted a test case in the High Court, which could cost them many millions of pounds if it found against the banks. Hundreds of cases have been settled out of court at the last minute. Brian Capon, of the British Bankers Association, defended the banks approach: 

“They take the court process very seriously, but ultimately they would prefer to settle disputes with their customers outside the court process,” he said.  “Where a customer’s complaint dates back over a long period or is complex the bank will need longer to investigate the complaint properly.” 

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