The man who said 'no' to bank charges
When Marc Gander was charged £150 for going into the red, he launched a fightback campaign that could cost the banks billions in compensation and refunds
Sunday 27 April 2008
As revolutionaries go, Marc Gander is as about as unlikely as they get. He's 57, a family man and ex-law lecturer with two adopted kids living in north London: hardly a modern day Che Guevara. But as co-founder of the Consumer Action Group, he's become the scourge of Britain's banks.
Set up in 2006, the action group has 200,000 members and has to date helped bank customers to reclaim more than £700m in charges levied on them by banks because they went into the red. And this is small change compared to what the banks may have to cough up soon.
Last week, in a landmark ruling, the High Court said the Office of Fair Trading was allowed to decide whether the current bank charges regime was fair or a rip-off. Ultimately, this could lead to the OFT ordering banks to lower their fees and pay compensation to customers who've paid charges in the past equivalent to £10bn.
"This is a great win and the banks should now pay up what they owe. The Government gave the banks £50bn recently and now they have something to spend it on," Marc says with glee.
It all started with Lloyds charging Marc £150 when he went into the red. "I had been off work ill and I briefly went over my agreed overdraft limit and was hit with £150-worth of charges by Lloyds. I argued with them, but they threatened to withdraw my overdraft altogether at a time when I was vulnerable.
"I was furious at their bullying. They thought they could get away with whatever they wanted because they're a big bank and I'm just a customer." Not giving in to Marc could be one of the costliest errors ever made by a bank: "I'm a lawyer and decided to look at whether the banks had the right to levy the charges they do. I soon found they had no right whatsoever."
What Marc had discovered – though this is yet to be tested in the courts – was that penalty charges were illegal under UK contract law. He posted his discovery on a chat room and was contacted by an internet expert, Dave Smith. "We chatted and decided to set up a website to let people discuss charges. I put a legal letter on the site that people could download and send to their banks asking for a charges refund. We imagined we'd get a couple of hundred users. We were way out."
A trickle of interest soon turned into a flood as news got around that the banks, keen not to test Marc's theory that penalties were illegal, were simply paying up when customers made a claim. "It snowballed, we started to get lots of media interest, papers started running campaigns and Martin Lewis got involved through his high-profile website Moneysavingexpert."
By mid-2007 the banks were inundated with claims from 300,000 people wanting past charges refunded. Fearing an administration meltdown, the banks asked the City regulator if they could put claims on ice while the High Court decided what powers the OFT had in the case.
Now the OFT has won, Marc, like all good revolutionaries, senses his enemy's weakness: "When it [the OFT] decides the charges are unlawful there will be a big price to pay. What hasn't been factored in is the collateral damage caused by the banks' unfair charges. Thousands of people have had their credit records and their reputations damaged, others have lost their business or been forced into bankruptcy. They must be compensated for this in full."
Thinking back to his own brush with the banks two years ago, Marc says: "I bet Lloyds wish they'd never charged me that £150." I bet they do.
- 1 Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Pro-Russian rebel 'admits to shooting down plane'
- 2 Israel has discovered that it's no longer so easy to get away with murder in the age of social media
- 3 Israel-Gaza conflict: The myth of Hamas’s human shields
- 4 Amy Winehouse unpublished 2004 interview: ‘Ten years from now I’ll be 30, so I’ll maybe have one baby’
- 5 Dutch paedophile club to fight their ban at the European Court of Human Rights
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
iJobs Money & Business
£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Banking - London - £350 -£400 per d...
£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus 23 days holiday and pension scheme: Clearwater ...
£475 - £525 per day: Orgtel: Test Lead, London, Investment Banking, Technical ...
Day In a Page
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar