But only, unfortunately, if you dealt with a UK bank and paid certain bank charges. Earlier this year, it was deemed by the Office of Fair Trade in the UK that banks could not make profits from bank charges. They were only supposed to charge the actual cost of a transaction, rather than make money from it. So, if it cost a bank £5.40 to process an unauthorised overdraft, then they had to charge that amount – not the £25 and £30 that some banks charged.
With the advent of this decision, a massive campaign was started to help UK bank customers reclaim their overpaid charges – directed and facilitated mainly by Martin Lewis of www.moneysavingexpert.com. He has put together a very simple step by step guide for banking customers to reclaim such overpaid charges over the past 6 years.
As a customer of First Direct in the UK from 1998 to 2003, and having left my account in a not so healthy state when I left to return to Ireland, I decided to see what I could get out of this. Following the step by step above, I requested my 6 years of bank statements, and then picked out any charges levied in that time. I sent a letter to First Direct requesting repayment of £550. Very quickly in response, I received a settlement offer for £432. On the basis of something rather than nothing, I accepted and yesterday received my cheque in the post.
From my reading around this story, this amount is small compared to what others are reclaiming. I cannot find exact numbers, but there are reports of “tens of thousands” of customers reclaiming enough charges that some of the UK high street banks said that it may impact on their profits.
Just to note – these charges levied by the banks would have been quoted in the accounts terms and conditions which would have been accepted by customers – they are not rip-off or hidden charges. The reason for the issue is that under UK legislation, the charges were just too high.
I wonder is it ever likely that such a situation could arise in Ireland. I wonder which of our regulators would we have to speak to about this. Would it be the Competition Authority? Or the National Consumer Agency? Of the Financial Regulator? The Financial Services Ombudsman?
So many regulators. So little time. It’s a little nuts really. There’s a simple question, and there’s 4 possible avenues to chase up. Not very simple, is it?