Banks & building societies
Banks can charge you, should you go into the red. However it is worth complaining if you feel that it is unfair, for example if it was only for a couple of days and you transferred money as soon as you realised. I have done this a few times over the last 25 years. It has always worked. The only time it didn’t work first time was a couple of years ago and I then wrote to the CEO outlining my loyalty as a customer and I then got the money refunded.
Remember that the bank does not have to give you this amount, I just feel the charges do not reflect anything like the extra administrative time the matter might take. The ease with which I have had the charge refunded in the past I believe shows that if you are seen to make the effort that will be acknowledged. My examples were all genuine mistakes where I had forgotten something leaving the account or, had miscalculated! Don’t be afraid to admit to making a mistake as this also goes a long way to a friendly customer services representative being understanding.
Banks don’t pay out refunds of charges as easily as they used to, but they are obliged to treat customers fairly so it is worth writing to complain. You can go back 6 years. Unlikely that you have the statements but you can look online at your account for information or you can request a list of transactions for the last 6 years. Don’t ask for statements as the bank could charge you £10 per statement!
If you are in financial hardship, complain about more than one unfair charge over the years and threaten to take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman it is quite possible that you will receive a goodwill gesture. All cases where the Financial Ombudsman thinks treatment has been unfair will be looked at and the service is free so it is worth going further.
Generally speaking if the charge exceeds the amount you are overdrawn or you get stuck in debt because of the cycle of continuous charges you could take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman.
In response to your complaint banks could:
Refund in full.
Refund in part. Banks should deal with your case sympathetically so if you feel that the offer is not fair, contact the bank again with an amount that you think is more appropriate and negotiate.
Ask you to fill out a form. The bank may want more information regarding your financial hardship. In this case fill out as fully as possible and return speedily as this shows that you are serious.
Require the refund be used to pay off debt. If it was just the one charge it is likely that the bank will just refund the amount into the account. However, if you are claiming for the past 6 years it may be a figure into hundreds of pounds. If your account is in debt you should accept this offer. However, if you have other debts such as utility bills or mortgage arrears incurring higher charges contact the bank and explain the situation.
Reject but offer to help in other ways. The bank may accept that you are in financial difficulties but not offer to refund the charges, choosing to do something else such as not making charges for the following 6 months or offering a repayment plan. You could accept this offer, but if you are not happy then write again.
Reject out of hand. The bank may completely reject your request. Some banks may do this automatically for all claims as a matter of policy as many people will not pursue the matter. In this situation write again (I’d go to the CEO at this point) explaining your disappointment with the decision and threaten to take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman. If the claim is rejected again then proceed with the Financial Ombudsman. You have nothing to lose.
For more information and advice on complaining about financial institutions and others and template letters see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!