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Bank charges hit more than half of customers

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10/06/2008

More than half of banking customers pay bank charges, research from Fair Investment has revealed.

Of those people asked, almost a quarter of current account customers have an agreed overdraft facility but still slip over it from time to time, incurring a charge from their bank. Of those who do not have an agreed overdraft, 9% still slip into the red every now and then.

Another 16% said that they are constantly being charged and cannot afford to pay them, while 11% exceed their overdraft as often as every month in order to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, 15% of customers have an agreed overdraft which they stick to and never exceed, and a quarter of respondents said that they have no need for an overdraft and are therefore also not affected by bank charges.

David Doulton, director at Fair Investment, said: “The fact that more than half of Britons are affected by bank charges should urge the banks to act in their customers’ best interests, but they are more concerned about the £3.5bn a year they are raking in from them.

“With the cost of living on the rise, consumers are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Banks have a responsibility to their customers to provide fair bank charges. Currently, people are being charged up to as much as £40 for exceeding their overdraft.”

On 24 April, a High Court Judge confirmed that the charges were eligible to be assessed under rules governing consumer contract regulations, and said that under these rules the Office of Fair Trading could determine whether or not the charges are fair.

The banks have appealed this ruling, maintaining that the charges they implement are both fair and proportionate. It is hoped that this will go to the Court of Appeal in July, but campaigners are concerned that it could take longer if the case goes to the House of Lords and European court.

Nobody has been able to reclaim their charges since last summer, when the Financial Services Authority implemented a freeze on reclaiming until the issue is clarified by law. Before reclaiming was halted, the banks are reported to have paid out an estimated £1billion to dissatisfied customers, and thousands more await a final decision, hoping that the OFT emerges the victor so that they can also reclaim their money.

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