Questions Of Cash: 'Should NatWest have charged me 360 for a 5 error?'

Q. I had a bank account with NatWest for six years. In that time, I accidentally went overdrawn a couple of times but by no more than 5. Each time I was charged 28. On the last occasion, I complained and NatWest said it would review matters and contact me afterwards which has not happened. A year and a half ago I relocated to the US. Before moving away, I went 4 overdrawn by mistake. I paid this as soon as I noticed my error. But now I have received several threatening letters stating that I owe NatWest 332.59 in interest and charges. Can I do something against such disproportionate charges? HC, United States.

A. Your previous complaint against the high charges for an unauthorised overdraft was put on hold until the legal review of banks' charging policies was completed. That legal case is still underway, which is why you have not been contacted again. This latest problem illustrates the dramatic way in which bank charges can escalate. A payment by you to your account of 18.85 led to you going overdrawn, without authorisation, by 5.39. You thought you had cleared this by paying 6 into your account. But, in fact, this failed to clear your account as NatWest had already charged you 28 for going overdrawn. You were unaware of this, presumably because you had moved to the United States by then. Consequently, further penalty charges were imposed for having failed to clear the first penalty charge and subsequent monthly charges. This escalated to the point where you owed NatWest 362.59 even more than the figure you advised us.

This process of applying penalty charges on top of penalty charges helps explain the anger with which consumer groups have demanded that the banks moderate their charging policy which is why the legal case was brought. But there is good news in your case. As a gesture of goodwill, NatWest has written-off all the penalty charges. It will credit your account with 363.20, representing all the latest charges. In addition, recognising that you have now moved to the US and wish to close your account, it will credit your account with a further 28 to clear the previous claim you made against penalty charges. Your account now stands at 28.61 which it will pay you according to your instructions.

Q. I purchased a BA ticket to Islamabad from a travel agent in August last year. BA cancelled all flights to Islamabad for security reasons and I was told my money would be refunded via the travel agent. BA says it has given the money back to the travel agent, but I have not received a refund. I have been phoning and emailing the travel agent for a year without success. I tried speaking to my bank about this earlier in the year, but it refused to help me. I am owed 495. SS, by email.

A. Happily, as you paid by Visa debit card, you are protected against just such an eventuality. Unfortunately, Lloyds appeared to have forgotten about this when you phoned them several months ago. Lloyds apologises for this and has fully refunded your 495. We were unable to contact the travel agent. Sadly your situation is not unusual when dealing with small independent travel agents. It is wise in these cases to pay, as you did, by Visa debit card, or, even better, to pay by credit card which gives you stronger statutory rights.

Q. I had a two-year Fixed Rate Bond with Heritable Bank that matured on 1 May 2009. It was taken over by ING Direct in May. I then closed the account and transferred funds to my current account. I have now received a letter from ING Direct requesting 54.32 because "prior to the transfer (from Heritable Bank to ING), a mistake was made when calculating the interest due". Have other people received such letters? Is it a genuine request? Do I have to pay it back as, after all, it was their mistake? ME, Gateshead.

A. Heritable Bank was a subsidiary of the Icelandic Landsbanki and is now in administration. After ING Direct took over Heritable there was a mistake made on interest calculations, which affected about 2,500 customers. ING Direct says it is "confident" about its legal position seeking to obtain the money back, comparing this to the situation where it would have to pay customers if they had been underpaid interest.

Paul Bicknell of the Financial Ombudsman Service confirms ING Direct is acting correctly. He says: "Legally, the firm is entitled to ask for the money back. In some circumstances customers do not have to repay mistaken credits if they have 'changed their position' through believing, in good faith, that the money was theirs for example, by buying some expensive service that they would not otherwise have bought. But merely spending the money on ordinary day-to-day expenditure does not amount to a change of position.

"In cases such as this, we are usually interested in the practicalities of how consumers should repay the money and not the principle as to whether they should do it or not. It is possible [the reader] may be able to get a small refund of some of the charges to reflect the distress and the inconvenience caused to her, but this is unlikely to exceed 25 and she should complain to the bank in the first instance in order to obtain this. The bank may be more likely to take a favourable view on her position and getting this resolved informally given the fact the case fee for a financial services company being complained about at the Financial Ombudsman is 500. But if the consumer simply decided to not repay the debt it is highly unlikely the bank would just write it off and it could affect her credit rating."

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Please email us at:

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform