Questions Of Cash: ‘I was broke, but my bank still charged me’
By Paul Gosling
Saturday, 6 September 2008
Q. I was a subcontracted carpenter when business dried up unexpectedly and I found myself in the middle of London with few prospects and no money. I had to write cheques to survive. I was desperately seeking work, put my car up for sale and explained my predicament to my bank, NatWest, who I kept informed at all stages. When I went overdrawn, I was charged a £35 fee for each of eight cheques and a monthly £10 account maintenance fee. In total I was charged £495. I lodged a claim in court seeking to dismiss the charges, but NatWest put an end to the case because any claim cannot be considered while the legality of bank charges is being considered by higher courts. But I read in your column that banks can consider such cases where there is financial hardship. RH, Hove.
A. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), owners of NatWest, restate their belief that the charges are fair, reasonable and legal, and that it was in the right to charge you nearly £500 at the time of your financial crisis. It says that as your immediate financial crisis is now over, there is no basis for waiving the charges because of hardship. The Independent has campaigned against excessive bank charges and we are sympathetic to your situation, but we have been unable to persuade RBS to exempt you from these.
Q. On 2 June, I paid my American Express bill for £34.61, via my online Nationwide Flexi account. The payment was shown on my Nationwide account. But my next Amex statement showed a £10 penalty charge for late payment, plus interest. When I spoke to Amex it withdrew the charges, even though it said it had not received the payment. Nationwide confirmed the payment had been made and promised the matter would be sorted out. I then heard from Amex which said it could still not trace any payment. My next Nationwide statement showed a credit of £34.61 into my account on 18 June, which turned out to be a payment from Amex. In early July, Amex phoned to say my account was well overdue. What is going on? AD, Aberdeenshire.
A. The explanation is simple. You entered the wrong Amex sort code when you made the payment. Consequently, Amex could not reconcile the payment with your bill and repaid it. When you phoned Nationwide to find out why the payment had not gone through, it seems the account number was checked but not the sort code. Nationwide accepts that it could have done more to resolve the matter more quickly and is paying you £50 as a goodwill offering.