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.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...
£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity h...
$125 - $175 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Senior Wealth Manager In...
$200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer Office...
Day In a Page
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
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