Bankers are still charging ahead with bully-boy tactics

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The Independent Online

The sometimes ineffectual Office of Fair Trading (OFT) acted for good this week. It cracked down on the despicable practice of charging orders.

These are a legal device which effectively allows lenders to turn unsecured loans into secured loans, which means people who little thought they would be risking their homes when they borrowed money, can end up being thrown out of their property if they are struggling to repay their debts.



The charging orders in themselves are acceptable. After all, if someone has run up thousands of pounds of debt and can't pay it, it seems reasonable for a lender to go to court to get their cash back from the money in that person's home.



But some greedy lenders have been using charging orders to get cash back from people who owe £600 or less. This, at best, is heavy handed. Though in my view, it is actually an abuse of the system. Luckily, the OFT agrees and has forced bully-boy lenders to curb their tactics. Worringly, the lenders rapped by the OFT include firms owned by three of the biggest names in the banking business – Santander, American Express and HSBC.



I hope the OFT's action brings the lenders back into line but, judging by past experience, I'll be back in these pages shortly reporting on further unfair bully-boy tactics by them.



The nationwide building society is attempting to reclaim the mutual high ground by trumpeting a list of "savings promises". That's a potentially good move, if it can back them up with decent accounts. But that's a big if. Especially if my experience with them is anything to go by. My eye was caught by one of the new promises. The Nationwide claims: "We will help choose the best savings account for you."



I've long ranted about the seeming policy of banks and building societies of suckering savers into good-paying accounts and then letting the rate shrink away until people are left with paltry returns. Plenty of readers have written in about the subject and I've returned time and again to the importance of checking rates and switching accounts.



So I was shocked to discover that I've been caught out by this tactic by the Nationwide. Even worse it is my children's savings that have ended up being paid a pittance in what was once a market-leading account. So it's goodbye Nationwide's Smart account – your empty promise has come too late for my two boys.

s.read@independent.co.uk

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