High court ruling on bank charges could lead to silent majority being worse off

Most people would not be prepared to pay for a bank account event it meant a fairer, simpler banking system with no hidden monthly charges, according to new research* from Moneyexpert.com.

The independent financial comparison website says that 58 per cent of people are not prepared to pay for a bank account and warns that the views of the silent majority are not being heard following the recent ruling on the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) test case over bank charges.

Following the decision to test the fairness of bank charges in court, banks could eventually impose fees for all customers if they can no longer charge those who go into the red without permission.

The MoneyExpert.com research shows that opposition to fee-based banking is particularly strong amongst those who have never paid a bank charge – two in three people (66%) say they won’t pay for a current account.

And with the furore over bank charges bound to continue MoneyExpert.com says that those who don’t normally fall into the red without permission could end up worse off if regular bank charges are introduced. The website estimates that over 80% of bank customers don’t pay overdraft charges currently.

Sean Gardner, founder of MoneyExpert.com, said, "The recent announcement provoked a huge amount of excitement yet it’s worth bearing in mind that this legal battle is far from over. We still have to wait for a further hearing – which might not be until next year – before it is decided by the court whether or not the charges are unfair."

"And the banks actually persuaded the judge that these are service charges, not penalty fees, meaning the fee they charge for unauthorised overdrafts doesn’t just have to cover their costs."

"Given that most people would prefer not to see the end of free banking and would only be prepared to pay a modest monthly fee the majority of bank customers stand to lose if the banks eventually lose this case."

The MoneyExpert.com research shows that attitudes towards paying a monthly account fee have hardened over the past 12 months. Of the 39% who would be willing to pay a monthly fee for their bank account, most are only willing to pay between £1 and £5 (24%). Just 9% are willing to pay between £6 and £10. Last year, the average ‘acceptable’ monthly fee was £7.29.

* ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1003 adults aged 18+ by telephone between 16-17th April 2008. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.

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