Sam Dunn: Give us our money or get taken to court

One reader who threatened to take her bank to court got £64 back in six weeks

So, in the second week of 2007, which of your brave New Year's resolutions are you still pursuing?

Perhaps the idea of jogging every workday at lunch has been quietly revised to Mondays and Thursdays only, or the blanket ban on chocolate bars temporarily lifted.

Or maybe that resolve to fight off the financial flab and overhaul your personal finances has weakened.

The application to switch your current account lies half filled and your hunt for a better- paying savings account or cheaper mortgage has got no further than a cursory glance at the "best buy" tables on page 22.

If your determination to sort out your finances has been stifled by the mid-January torpor, let me rouse you from the sofa - it looks as if the odds of a healthy financial return are stacked in your favour.

Changing the provider of your mortgage and credit card will produce the usual benefits of a cheaper deal. But you might also find that taking your bank on over punitive current account penalty fees reaps dividends too.

Over the next three months, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is analysing current account charges of up to £39 levied by banks and lenders, and will then announce whether these are fair - and if not, by how much they should be slashed.

The OFT's argument - rightly - rests on errant consumers being asked to pay a fine that reflects the true cost to the bank of their transgression.

It decided last year that credit card providers were unfairly levying penalty fees of around £25 for missed card repayments; £12 is now the limit.

If the OFT were to draw similar conclusions about current accounts, banks would lose another giant slice of income worth up to £4.7bn.

This is where you - and your renewed drive to shake up your finances - come in.

The spectre of the OFT investigation appears to have sparked a discernible change in attitude towards consumers at a handful of banks.

A number of readers report that their efforts to claim back high bank charges - as encouraged by, among others, the Which? consumer body - have met with astonishing, speedy success. One reader who threatened to take the bank to the small claims court, over a £25 charge from 2002, lodged her complaint only six weeks ago.

She received a cheque in the post last week for this amount plus interest (around £9) and a sum to cover the cost of the small claims court application (£30).

This result is not unusual.

Terrified of going to court - and facing the difficulty of proving to a judge that their charges are fair - many banks are instead prepared to "settle" the dispute quietly.

That it takes the threat of legal action to spur a bank into coughing up is no surprise, but it's a tactic that is yielding rewards for plenty of consumers.

Anybody objecting to the size of their current account charges, and who is prepared to invest the time and effort to take on their bank, should consider having a go: has plenty of useful information.

A sense of desperation is pervading banks over current account default charges.

Extra pressure was applied late last year by Walter Merricks, the Financial Ombudsman, who made noises about an investigation after noticing that banks were dealing with these complaints in an inconsistent way.

It's not often that banks find themselves vulnerable to consumers, so be bold and brash: it's time to get one back.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
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

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style