Banks Defend Charges From 'Rip-Off' Claim
Banks insist they are offering clear and simple charges, while research claims their fees for going overdrawn can be as expensive as those imposed by payday lenders.
Research by Which? found that people can rack up "sky high" default charges if they slip into an unauthorised overdraft. It also criticised some other borrowing arrangements as "eye-wateringly" expensive.
The consumer group cited a number of examples: Borrowing £100 for 31 days will cost £30 with a Halifax authorised overdraft or £20 with some Santander accounts, while borrowing the same amount for around a month with a payday loan firm such as Quickquid or Wonga costs between £20 and £37.
For consumers using the Halifax Reward current account and the Santander Everyday Account it can cost £100 in charges for going £100 into an unauthorised overdraft for a month, Which? said.
The group's findings follow hot on the heels of tougher action against the payday loans industry while the whole credit market will come under the supervision of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) next year.
The FCA recently announced measures it plans to impose, including limiting the number of times payday lenders are allowed to roll over loans to twice and forcing them to put "risk warnings" on their advertising.
Which? urged the FCA to crack down on poor lending and unscrupulous practices across the credit market and demanded that default charges reflect lenders actual costs.
It also called for tougher affordability checks and an end to lenders making unsolicited increases to people's credit limits.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "The Government and regulators have rightly focused on the scandal of payday lending but they must not lose sight of the urgent need to clean up the whole of the credit market.
High street bank overdraft fees can be just as eye-watering as payday loans.
"Consumers need the credit market to work competitively. It's time to clamp down on excessive charges and irresponsible lending, and to make sure borrowers are being treated fairly whatever form of credit they're using."
Anthony Browne, British Bankers' Association chief executive, said overdraft charges for customers had fallen "significantly" in recent years.
He said: "The Office of Fair Trading estimates that customers are now up to £1bn better off due to reductions in these fees.
"The higher figures quoted by Which? are based on extreme examples of unauthorised overdrafts. This is not a form of borrowing that we would ever recommend."
Santander told Sky News: "Santander's overdraft charges are clear, transparent and easy for customers to understand.
"In addition to the simple daily charging structure, we have a number of tools and policies that help our customers stay in control and minimise charges such as overdraft buffers, text alerts, caps and grace periods.
"Whenever possible, customers should discuss short-term borrowing requirements with Santander in order to avoid unnecessary charges."
Halifax also released a statement, saying: "Halifax offers a clear and simple overdraft charging structure, whereby customers are charged one daily fee rather than multiple fees."
It added that it would always contact a customer if they were in their unplanned overdraft for more than seven days to discuss alternative payment options.