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Bank charges come back into legal spotlight following court ruling

February 22, 2013

banking

Money, it's a crime
Image by kiki99 via Flickr

Bank charges could be set for another court battle after a ruling by a Glasgow Judge cleared the way for a proof hearing into determining whether bank charges are fair.

The Supreme Court verdict last November ruled the Office of Fair Trading could not assess bank charges under section 6 of the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts regulations, but suggested the banks might still have a case to answer under section 5 of the same act.

On Friday at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Baird ruled against the Bank of Scotland in its attempts to prevent a customer amending her bank charges claim and fixed a full evidential hearing for the case.

Aided by solicitors from Govan Law Centre, the claimant succeeded in persuading the judge to allow a new challenge against the bank under regulation 5 of the UTCCR. What’s more, a request was also made asking the court to prohibit the bank from imposing future charges against the claimant under S140 of the Consumer Credit Act.

The proof hearing may result in the bank being forced to show that its charges were not excessive under the consumer credit act in a development which places the onus on the banks to prove charges are fair.

“Over the last few weeks, UK banks have been telling one million customers that there were now no grounds to reclaim bank charges, standing November’s Supreme Court’s decision. Of course, the Supreme Court itself had explained that charges could still be challenged under different legal grounds, and that is what Sheriff Baird has permitted our client to do today at Glasgow Sheriff Court,” said Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre, representing the successful pursuer.

Bank of Scotland now faces a fresh challenge that charges were excessive and unfair under the Consumer Credit Act. That is a potentially devastating case for them to answer, because under this new law the onus of proof is on the bank to show that charges were fair. Given that our banks have admitted they subsidise ‘free-if-in-credit banking’ by squeezing more money out their poorest customers through bank charges, they will now have to defend the indefensible. And, they will have the added problem that we are asking the court to prohibit them from imposing future charges under the CCA”.

“In a nutshell, our new arguments are hugely more powerful than the ones deployed by the OFT in their unsuccessful test case. Evidentially, the new arguments require the bank to prove their charges were fair – which is tactically significant for consumers. The new arguments not only enable consumers to seek a refund of past charges, but entitle them to ask the court to prohibit future bank charges. That is hugely significant, and in many respects, we believe the new bank charges campaign is going to be a tougher propsect for the banks than the pre-July 2010 campaign. And of course that previous campaign saw refunds in excess of £1bn for consumers across the UK – so we are incredibly optimistic”.

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  • http://www.calvertonfactors.co.uk/ invoice factoring company

    I’d hope so too Nicole, but I just don’t know if this hearing will be successful. Banks have a cunning way of getting their own way a lot of the time! If it is passed though, it will be a customer triumph.