/ Money

How do we tackle extortionate unarranged overdraft fees?

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has said it will be looking into the high-cost credit sector, which includes overdrafts, next month. But is this too little too late, asks our guest author Rachel Reeves MP?

The announcement from the FCA shows that, despite calls for urgent action to be taken to tackle punitive unarranged overdraft fees, the Authority has failed to make it a priority and has delayed work on this issue once again.

The scale of harm to consumers, particularly vulnerable consumers and those struggling with persistent debt, is clear. And the case for the FCA to take action couldn’t be stronger.

Over two million people in the UK have permanent overdrafts, with many stuck in a “vicious cycle” of borrowing, according to the debt charity StepChange. Which? previously found that customers needing to borrow as little as £100 through an unarranged overdraft could be charged up to seven and a half times more, or £156, by some high street banks than the FCA allows payday loan companies to charge.

Furthermore, new research from Which? shows that attempts to tackle these fees, through the introduction of the Monthly Maximum Charge, appear to have made little to no difference. The majority of banks assessed are continuing to charge customers extremely high fees for relatively little money borrowed.

Unfair charges

Obviously there is something very wrong with this picture, and in particular there is an issue with how banks treat customers who are heavy overdraft users. These consumers are easily identifiable by banks as being in financial difficulty and yet the fact that they continue to be penalised with sky-high fees is stark evidence of an industry that isn’t treating customers fairly.

The FCA has a responsibility to protect consumers and needs to do more to ensure that consumers are always put first. The continued lack of action from the regulator on this serious issue is concerning and that’s why I, as part of a cross-party group of MPs, am happy to support Which?’s calls for urgent action to be taken.

I have been a long-term supporter of Which?’s calls to tackle unarranged overdraft fees and have campaigned on this issue in Parliament. In 2017, I introduced a Bill on Unauthorised Overdrafts having previously secured a debate on the topic.

Now we want to see the Government intervene swiftly to give the FCA the power to implement new regulations that cannot be challenged by the banks.

What do you think should be done about the fees that bank charge on unarranged overdrafts?


This is a disgrace, the bank’s should be made to pay so much back to their customers. It’s as bad as the ppi that had to be paid back. Banking services are expensive enough! They charge enough as it is to look after OUR money, then give us a limit on how much per day we can draw out.

Nick Jung says:
1 June 2018

Overdraft fees should be linked directly to the published RPI or similar criteria. This would make assessment easy…..and force the government to publish accurate figures that reflect reality

I have decided that banks make money out of normal high street people by trying to get them into debt. There are many ways they do this:- they have introduced contactless cards (which will allow you to go into overdraft oftentimes), they have accounts which allow themselves to go into unagreed overdraft unless you specifically ask for a blocked account and they have these mysterious mini-statements which lead you to believe you have a certain amount of money in your account which if you use it places you into overdraft.
I am convinced the `normal’ customer is more of a nuisance to banks unless they can get them into debt with them, and then they can apply the extortionate charges, strange interest periods which seem to overlap so they can swipe a bit more out of your account when you thought it was all over when you least expect it. They are cowboys. But maybe that was the way it always was with those who hold the purse-strings!

Colin Harthill says:
1 June 2018

I believe that banks in general take a very arrogant attitude towards their customers and seem to believe they can do pretty much do what they want with impunity, falling on customers in financial difficulties like buzzards.
In my oppinion the first thing that needs to happen is that parliament needs to pass laws to control what charges banks are allowed to make and determine a universal maximum scale of charges for the various things which banks are allowed to charge for.
The banks must be legally obliged to agree to adhere to these maximum charges and if they don’t or are found to have on occasion to have exceeded these charges then the government must apply pre-determined heavy fixed penalty daily charges on the banks until they comply or for the number of days for which they have not complied. These penalties should be automatic and could possibly be claimed through the revenue system so that the banks could be prosecuted through that system if they do not pay.
Until bank charges are controlled by law the offending banks will continue to see their customers who occasionally and often accidentally go into the red as cash cows who they can exploit and bleed continuously like the legalised loan sharks which many of them resemble.

I agree. FCA should govern the unauthorised overdraft fee system. Have a uniform table of charges applied to all banks. The banks should be allowed to set their charges within a certain range of the table to provide a level of competition between the banks.

Penelope Taylor says:
2 June 2018

Agree 100 %

I agree that something should be done to outlaw these rip-offs.
These charges are extortionate but the way to avoid them is to set up an overdraft, that you will use only in dire emergency, but then you pay a reasonable rate when circumstances demand it.

Doris – I think that is the problem n a nutshell. Prudent folk can avoid these charges but only regulation can protect imprudent folk from their inherent vulnerability to sharp practice.

Ken S says:
5 June 2018

A young friend of mine has been constantly hit by many of these highly unfair charges simply because he was (on these occasions) only around £1 short (65 pence in one instance) when earlier than stated direct debits hit his account. For the sake of a £1 overdraft, banks could easily afford to cover the shortfall and then inform the customer to pay a SMALL charge (10% interest) for the cover period.
Instead, they apply a wildly punitive charge of around £25 and then add £5 per day to the fee until cleared. Even when he has been paid the next day, he has been ripped off for at least £30.00 which means he has little money for even food!
This blatant and UNCARING attitude by banks is not acceptable. This is made worse by their advertising that they are CARING and HERE TO HELP. Marketing LIES at the very least!
If the banks were forced to pay back the fees which they have charged in such instances, thousands of similar people could be back on their financial feet with at least a little headstart thus avoiding future charges if they correctly manage their accounts. Sadly, often this leads to compounded debt problems with consequential effects on health and sometimes homelessness.
The banks MUST be tackled on this disgracefully profiteering behaviour and FORCED BY LAW to refund these charges! At least they could then claim that they worked for a better society and that their advertising was HONEST. At the moment, they cause more social problems than they solve. It should also be illegal for banks to claim that they are caring when they are guilty of such extortive practices.
The Financial Conduct Authority needs to address this urgently.

The Banks are above the law or maybe that should read, the law makers and the so called Regulators, and even the Auditors.
It’s been shown to be the case any number of times and there’s plenty of evidence of that out there.
The general public used to be ‘cannon fodder’ nowadays we are ‘ cash cows’.

Banks are very far from understanding a slight oversight on the customers behalf but are even more reluctant to listen to customers when the banks make mistakes and fight behind small print when there errors, especially recent software errors, cost customers large sums of money. Small oversights by customers should only attract normal fees such as late payment fees. The banks MUST be made to pay ALL costs plus inconvenience payments for their errors.

When a bank is fined for criminal practices the Board of Directors should be made liable for a high percentage (50%) of the fine. They may then take more care and shareholders would lose less money

Michael says:
3 August 2018

Santander have charged me £550 until now for a £9.40 unauthorised overdraft that the phone company say bounced, so it never left the bank. I’d already asked them to close my account before this started and they refused. Now I’m getting phone calls every hour from 8am to 7pm from different numbers and letters come every day. I refused to pay anything, it started at a charge of £120 for the £9.40 overdraft and since then every month they’ve added more for as they say extra unauthorised overdrafts!
If there was no unauthorised overdraft in that the phone company never got the £9.40 then they are trying to rob me! Even if there was, if they’d have closed my account like I’d asked them a month before this happened…
In any case £550 for £9.40 is a joke and if I could see the face that is adding these charges it would have a bat wrapped around it!

I think Overdraft Fees should be reduced to the same percentage level that Banks pay out on Savings Accounts.

Whereas I think savers’ interest rates should be raised to nearer the overdraft rate.

To some extent high overdraft charges enable banks to pay higher interest rates on savings, which suits me fine.

Trouble is mortgage and personal loan rates are far lower than overdrafts, and will (I am guessing) account for a more substantial part of the banks’ income. So I doubt interest rates could be raised too far. I think overdraft rates (arranged, that is) should be % based, not daily fees, and the rate determined by the financial history of the account holder.