6 PM Tuesday 24 April 2012 Nunhead Heights.
I went over my overdraft this month and I am waiting to hear how much it is going to cost me. The overdraft is amount the bank allows me to borrow each month. They are very nice to give it to me and charge me only 19.9% interest. When I exceed the allowed amount because I forget to make a deposit or forget that I have to work to make a living, they slap my hand with penalty charges. Rather, they punch me in the gut.
Last time I went over was maybe 18 months ago – I have been good since then – they charged me £25 (or £35?) per bounced direct deposit or insufficient funds. They killed me for more than £200. I was paying higher interest than if I’d seen the boys with broken noses who broke legs – that is the kinda thing that my Brooklyn-raised father would say.
A few years ago, you could go to the bank manager and ask for the penalty charges reversed and they’d do it. And you could also write to the bank and tell them you wanted the money back you spent on overdraft charges over the years and they would give it back to you, too.
As an American, I thought: What? You mean they will just give you back the money they took?
The UK banks must have known they were doing something wrong and as long as only a few customers asked for their money back the banks could hold onto the bulk of it.
But if the powers-that-be knew it was wrong why were they allowed to continue doing it?
No one in Britain appeared to be trying to stop them. The press wasn’t alerting the public to it – it was all by rumour – lawyers weren’t initiating “class action” lawsuits on customers’ behalf, the regulators weren’t demanding the banks stop, and the prosecution office weren’t arresting the banking officials. Nothing.
Eventually too many people had heard that they didn’t have to pay the charges. If the banks had to return the billions of pounds of excessive fees to everyone who asked, let alone everyone who had been taken, it would have bankrupted them. And it wasn’t a good time for banks anyway, the late noughties. The banks finally took their chances in court and won. I think this is what happened. I am no journalist so tell me if I am wrong.
That is something I can’t get used to. The British will put up with something that Americans would go absolutely mental about. It is like no one is stopping the wolves from eating the chickens.
Instead of worrying until I get my bank statement I phoned the HSBC and asked how much it is going to cost me. The three “incidents” will be £50.
Well, it could have been worse and it was own damn fault. My own damn fault may be the reason Brits did nothing.
And “it was my own damn fault” and “it was my own damn fault” thinking is very British. I’ll write about that soon.
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