My article on bank charges a few months ago prompted a few angry responses from people who claimed the current system of bank penalty charges is unfair.
Under the current system, people who go overdrawn – borrowing their bank’s money without permission – are charged fees. Some commentators have suggested that if these fees are found illegal by the courts, banks will have to find other ways to maintain their excessive profits, possibly by charging fees that all customers will have to pay, including those who manage their finances carefully and keep their accounts in credit.
My article in favour of the current system of charges drew criticisms from some readers. However, I have always had a sneaking suspicion that there is a silent majority in the UK who wouldn’t dream of going overdrawn, and who never have to pay penalty charges to their banks; and that these people naturally would not want a system of universal account service charges.
Today, the BBC reported the results of a YouGov poll where people were asked whether they would prefer the current system of penalties; a monthly account fee for everyone; or a fee per transaction. The vast majority of people said they would like to keep the current system. Only 9% said they would prefer fees that everyone had to pay.
In addition, the BBC ran its own poll alongside the article. At the time of writing, 60% of respondents have said they would prefer the current system of penalties to remain. Only 11% wanted a monthly fee, and 9% would prefer a charge per transaction. The remaining 20% wanted “alternative charges”, but with no indication of what those might be.
While the exact percentages above could be disputed, it is clear that the majority of people approve of the current penalty charges, and do not want bank fees that everyone has to pay. Given this fact, I think it’s time that supposed consumer champions such as MoneySavingExpert.com, Moneysupermarket.com, and indeed the BBC, jumped off the anti-penalty charges bandwagon, and realised that most consumers will not benefit from the changes their campaigns could very well bring about.
(Here is an article in The Times that agrees with me on charges, and gives an good analogy with borrowing money from a friend.)