Bureau's advice over shock bank charges

NORTH Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is helping an increasing number of clients in the area to challenge their banks after being hit by unexpected charges. One disabled client on a low income was charged £35 for a £4.20 transaction on his overdraft

NORTH Somerset Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is helping an increasing number of clients in the area to challenge their banks after being hit by unexpected charges.One disabled client on a low income was charged £35 for a £4.20 transaction on his overdraft and a young couple were charged over £400 in 24 hours in bank charges.Creditors such as banks, credit card and store companies can apply reasonable charges for breaches of an agreement, such as going into an unauthorised overdraft. However, the charge should just cover the administrative cost to the creditor of dealing with the breach and some banks' charges have been successfully challenged as excessive.CAB manager, Anne Richards, said: "Excessive bank charges can dramatically increase clients' debt, making it even more difficult to get themselves out of financial difficulty. We are seeing an increasing number of people who have got into debt through bank charges."The CAB has a few tips to help people reclaim their money:* You can claim a refund of charges paid during the past six years. You can write to the bank to ask for the information, which it must provide under the Data Protection Act. If it charges you for it, it cannot be more than £10.* Write to your bank and ask it to waive or reduce the charges as a goodwill gesture, explaining the reasons for your default.* If that is not successful write a stronger letter pointing out the legal arguments for refunding or reducing the charges. * If the bank still does not agree to a refund it can be taken to the small claims court. There is a small fee, but it will be refunded if the case is successful.* A complaint can also be made to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).For more information, draft letters to write to the bank, or an advice leaflet contact the CAB on 01934 836201.


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