Despite the result of the Supreme Court ruling on the Bank Charges test case, it is still sometimes possible to be refunded bank charges.
Although you’re not guaranteed to receive any refunds you can follow a cost free, and also risk free, approach.
Write to your bank
The first step is, of course, to write to your bank detailing charges that you feel are unfair and request a refund.
Make sure that you are polite and formal in your letter but you can mention that you will pursue the matter through the financial Ombudsman or the courts if the bank does not resolve the matter. Be sure to act confidently but remember that the bank do not want to refund your money.
You may be offered a settlement amount less than the full amount claims. Given the difficulties of reclaiming bank charges it may be wise to accept a settlement, if offered.
What to do next?
If your bank are not willing to offer you a refund of any amount then you have two routes.
You may either take the Financial Ombudsman route or the Court Route.
The Court Route
This is a risky route and you may end up having costs of the bank awarded against you. This may be a small risk but given the sums possible the risk should be avoided by most.
The Financial Ombudsman Route
This will be the preferable route for most as it doesn’t cost you any money and there is virtually no risk involved.
The Ombudsman has stated that it will only look at cases where the customer has been unfairly treated by the bank and noted three different reasons that this may be the case.
Reason 1: Financial Hardship
According to the law under the standard banking regulations banks must be fair to customers and consider financial difficulty. This means that if you’re having your income eaten away by charges, you can’t pay for necessities, you can’t pay debts or many other reasons it may be considered unfair that you suffer from bank charges.
Reason 2: The charges are disproportionate
For example if you are receiving £30 fines for going a couple of pounds over your overdraft limit then this may be considered disproportionate.
Reason 3: You were stuck in a cycle of charges
If you’re struggling to pay off previous charges and this in turn is leading to further charges then you may end up suffering from a snowball effect of charges.
What to claim
If you’ve decided that you wish to make a claim then you should know which charges you should be claiming. These claims are not for specific account charges they are for charges relating to going over an overdraft limit, bouncing a direct debit, etc.
You may also ask for interest to be paid on any charges being claimed.
When making a claim you need to know exactly how much you are claiming and it’s important that you have evidence to prove you’ve paid these charges.
If you don’t keep a record of all your bank statements then you can ask your bank to provide you a history of past transactions, which they are required to provide under the data protection act.
Make sure you don’t ask for statements as banks may charge you up to £10 for each statement, ask for a list of transactions.
How to complain to the Obudsman
The Financial Ombudsman service is an official and independent financial disputes body, which is free to use. You can register your complaint either by post or online and does not result in a court case.
The Ombudsman is there to help customers settle disputes with banks. You explain the situation to the Ombudsman and if they accept your complain and are willing to act on it they will then contact the bank. If the bank does not agree to settle the dispute as you wish the Ombudsman may carry out a formal investigation into your case.
Before contacting the Obudsman you must complain directly to your bank, there is then a time limit of eight weeks before you can complain to the Obudsman. You can go to the Obudsman earlier if the bank contact you to reject your request.
To register a complaint with the Obudsman you can either ring 0800 023 4567 or contact them through their website, http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/consumer/complaints.htm
If your claim is rejected by the Obudsman the only route left is that of the courts but this can be costly so you must assess how much you may lose by pursuing this avenue.