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Chris Ford: The Fair Play on Fees Campaign! Let's take the banks to the cleaners for taking us to them!

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

 Let's take the banks to the cleaners! After all they've taken many of us ordinary customers to the cleaners for too long now!

Good on the lawyers who have initiated a class action on behalf of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of disgruntled Kiwis who have been fleeced by so called "dishonour" payments over the years.

Like many people, I have sometimes gone over my account limit due to an automatic payment going out. Who hasn't? I know that like many New Zealanders I'm not an extravagant spender with most of my outgoings being spent on essential bills like rent, food, power, insurances and phone/internet.

Yet, when New Zealanders have unexpectedly big bills to pay and they have to fork out the dosh, they sometimes run out of cash until the next pay day. This means that they can have dishonour payments coming out right, left and centre. Even the most prudent budgeters in the world sometimes come unstuck!

When I think about it, there is also a contradiction in terms of the fact that banks charge huge dishonour fees. Of course, the banks will argue that they charge such fees to encourage customers to live within their means. They also advance the case that they face compliance costs in processing dishonoured transactions.

The simple truth is, though, that dishonour fees can sometimes send customers even more into the red! They really do defeat the purpose for which they were established sometimes.

In saying all this, the Fair Play on Fees Campaign admits that banks do have a right to pass on some costs to customers who go over their account limits. However, the new campaign is arguing (as has the Commerce Commission) that these costs are only a fraction of what is actually passed onto their customers. Therefore, we ordinary bank clients are being screwed over big time - to the tune of $1 billion in fact!

That's why bank fees are a nice little earner for our largely Australian owned banks. I was disgusted to hear that even state owned KiwiBank (where I keep one or two small accounts) is in the gun for charging exorbitant fees. Many years ago I remember that the Alliance pushed for the creation of KiwiBank as a means of fostering greater fee competition with the existing big four banks (ANZ, National, Westpac and Bank of New Zealand.) Now, KiwiBank management appear to regard themselves as one of the big five and entitled to behave in a socially irresponsible way.

The Fair Play on Fees Campaign is looking to end this rort once and for all! People all over the globe are now mightily cynical about banking behaviour, particularly following the global economic crisis. Banking multinationals need to be brought to heel!

The Fair Play on Fees campaign is one way to enable we, their customers, to do just that!




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