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Bank charges 'still hitting the poor hardest'

Citizens Advice Scotland have called on the government and the banking sector to re-double their efforts to help people avoid falling into overdraft and consumer debt.

The call comes as the UK government has today announced a package of measures, including text messages from banks warning customers when they are near overdraft levels, and a 7-day ‘account-switching’ period.

CAS Head of Policy Susan McPhee said,

“These measures are welcome as far as they go. We support anything that will help empower consumers, and things like this may well help enable some people to manage their money better. However, they are nowhere near enough to begin tackling the scale of the problems the banking sector are causing for hard-pressed familes.

“In general, bank fees are too high, their account information is still not presented clearly enough, and their charges disproportionately affect those who are least able to afford them.

“CAB advisers all across the country continue to report that they see many people who have been hit by bank charges which seem unduly high and which they feel have not been properly explained to them. A survey of Scottish CAB advisers earlier this year found that banks are becoming increasingly unhelpful when the CAB tries to intercede on the customer’s behalf to try and solve the dispute.

“One of the most distressing things about this is that those who are hit hardest are those who are already on low incomes to begin with. High bank charges seem designed to disproportionately affect those who are worst off.

“So if the government wants to bring fairness to the system, they need to address these more fundamental issues, with a much more comprehensive set of reforms. Text messages are a start, but nowhere near enough.”