Banks slash charge for unpaid items

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The Independent Online

NatWest and RBS are slashing the cost of bouncing a cheque from £38 to £5 from the beginning of October. The move is clearly timed to come ahead of the House of Lord's decision on the Office of Fair Trading's long-running legal challenge to bank charges, which is set to be published next month.

The bank claims the lower charging structure has been driven through by new UK retail bank chief, Brian Hartzer. "Fees for unarranged borrowing have been an area of ongoing concern for customers," Mr Hartzer said. "As we look ahead there are many issues to consider, but we thought it was time to move this particular customer concern forward by cutting our charges."

The new fee structure means unpaid items – bounced cheques, direct debits or standing orders – will cost customers £5 for each item, up to a maximum £50 a month, previously £114 a day. The bank's charge for paying items (such as mortgage repayments) will halve to £15, even if you are overdrawn, while customers who make a payment using a cheque guarantee card while overdrawn will be charged £15 instead of £35.

The bank was quick to stress that the changes will not affect past charges. "We are awaiting the outcome of the industry-wide bank charges test case," Mr Hartzer said. "Our aim, which has remained unchanged throughout the case, has been to gain legal clarity around this issue and we remain fully committed to it through the legal process."