Hope for hardship cases during bank charge appealWhich? calls for hardship cases to be fast-tracked

20 June 2009

As the House of Lords scrutinize bank charges, Which? today calls on the Financial Services Authority and financial providers to take action to ease the plight of consumers suffering financial hardship.

As the House of Lords prepares to hear the latest appeal in the bank charges test case next week, Which? chief executive, Peter Vicary-Smith, says, 'It's disappointing that nearly two years since this saga began, little has changed for the millions of consumers being hit with these charges.

'If you're struggling with basic living costs such as rent and utility bills then you may be eligible to get your claim fast-tracked under the terms of the waiver. The FSA must take action against any bank ignoring the financial plight of its customers.'

If you think you might qualify to get your claim fast-tracked, you can get more information in the Which? guide to reclaiming bank charges.

What is financial hardship?

The FSA definition of financial hardship is: 'A complainant is considered to be in financial difficulty when his or her income is insufficient to cover reasonable living expenses and meet financial commitments as they become due.'

This means that anyone struggling to pay their rent, utility bills and council tax or being unable to meet financial commitments such as mortgage or loan repayments may be able to have their claim fast-tracked. The FSA waiver, which has been in place since July 2007, says that banks and the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) must process the claims of people in financial hardship.

What should consumers do?

The hardship rule applies for existing claims as well as new ones so if you have a claim in the system and now find yourself in financial difficulties, you can ask your bank or the Ombudsman – depending on which stage your claim has got to – to deal with your case.

Template letters are available in the Which? guide to reclaiming bank charges.

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