Banks say Brown is overstating charges rise

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The Independent Online
GORDON Brown, the shadow chancellor, has attacked the banks for what he says was a pounds 2bn increase in their charges, to pounds 6.5bn, since 1989, writes Peter Rodgers.

But he was criticised by the clearers for misrepresenting the figures and choosing a period for comparison that ignores recent falls in fee income.

Revealing the research behind his criticism of the banks last weekend for overcharging and giving poor service, Mr Brown called for a review of fees and commissions that would bring banking costs down, and the introduction of a statutory banking code.

Lloyds said it was surprised that Labour had deliberately misinterpreted all the information it had been given this week, and appeared to have ignored a long letter from the British Bankers Association explaining the figures.

The banks argued that the numbers for charges, fees and commissions in their annual reports, cited by Mr Brown, were not the same as personal bank charges. They included fees from international and corporate business, broking and foreign exchange.

Lloyds' annual report separated out UK current account fees, which it said were down pounds 6m in 1993 compared with 1992, to pounds 335m. This figure includes current account fees paid by personal customers and small and medium- sized businesses. The bank already pre-notifies charges.

Midland said branch fee and commission income fell last year following price cuts for personal customers and a lower volume of transactions, despite a pounds 67m rise to pounds 1.042bn in total fees and commissions.

The bank said it had abolished some charges, such as those for overdraft letters, while business customers' tariffs had been unchanged since December 1990.