James Moore: RBS cuts cost of bouncing a cheque or two

Outlook: The move is good news for consumers
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The Independent Online

Royal Bank of Scotland is in need of a bit of good publicity. After all, if any bank really defines the arrogance, the hubris, the sheer stupidity of the events that led up to the banking crisis that has kicked us all in the teeth, it is RBS.

So here's new retail bank chief Brian Hartzer cutting the cost of bouncing a cheque from £38 to just a fiver from the beginning of October. Naturally, the announcement was accompanied by a typically back-slapping self congratulatory press release hailing what a marvellous and fantastic move this is for the holders of accounts with RBS and its subsidiary NatWest.

Well maybe. And maybe the bank is simply pre-empting the forthcoming House of Lords ruling on the Office of Fair Trading's long running investigation into the issue of whether £38 is unfair. (It is, particularly given that banks themselves have been bouncing cheques and expecting us to pick up the tab). It will also be most interesting to see what happens to other charges as a result. If Mr Hartzer wants his bonus, he's presumably going to have to find the money he's going to lose as a result of this move from somewhere. Although, given the state of the economy and the way the downturn has squeezed family finances, he may actually find that an increased volume of bounced cheques does the job for him, and very nicely too.

The move is still good news for consumers and better a sinner repenteth etc. But if Mr Hartzer really wants to make a splash, he would be better off taking action to improve the enormous level of complaints banks are receiving from their long suffering customers, as we reported last week. Perhaps he'll even publish the RBS specific data before the FSA makes him. Just don't bank on it.