Bank charges: how we got here

Many people are feeling surprised and disappointed by today’s decision from the Supreme Court, but how did the case unfold?

After two years of legal battles, countless numbers of angry consumers and several apparent victories for the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the ruling has gone in favour of the banks.

Millions of customers who’ve been stung by charges for using an unauthorised overdraft will now be unable to demand a refund from their banks. So exactly what lead to the OFT and eight of the country's banks and building societies battling it out in court over whether the charges can be assessed for fairness?

Here’s a timeline of events. We've included a few of our articles written at the time to give you some detailed background on exactly what went on.



  • Consumer anger grows over rising bank charges for unauthorised overdraft use.


  • 26 April
    The OFT launched an investigation into the fairness of charges, alongside a wider study of the way current accounts were priced.
  • 27 July
    Thousands of consumers start demanding refunds from their banks, placing an incredible strain on the Financial Ombudsman and courts. Many customers are given back their money.
Seeking clarification for customers, the OFT takes seven high street banks and a building society to court in order to establish once and for all if these charges are fair. These are Abbey, Barclays, Clydesdale, HSBC, HBOS, Lloyds, Nationwide Building Society and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The Financial Services Authority (FSA) agrees banks can freeze all claims until the High Court reaches a decision.


  • 14 January
    The High Court case begins.
  • 24 April
    At the court, the judge rules that there is no common law case against the overdraft charges but that the OFT can assess their fairness under consumer contract regulations. Read our article 'Banks lose first round of overdraft charges court case' for more information.


  • May
    The banks announce they are appealing April’s decision.
  • 21 July
    The FSA extends the freeze on charges complaints until 26 January 2009. Read our article 'Bank charges update' for more information.
  • 28 October
    The banks’ appeal begins.



  • January
    The FSA extends the waiver on new complaints for a further six months. 
  • 01 April
    The House of Lords agrees that banks should be able to appeal the ruling that their charges are subject to fairness laws. Read our article 'Bank charges - more twists and turns' for more information.
  • 23 June
    The appeal within the House of Lords opens
  • 22 July
    The FSA decides to freeze the waiver on new complaints until 26 January 2010.
  • 25 November
    The Supreme Court rules that bank charges cannot be assessed for fairness as they are not subject to consumer protection laws.
The FSA confirms it has now ended the freeze on new complaints.
The OFT says it will now consider whether it is to continue its investigation into bank charges and expects to make further announcements in December.
Read our article 'What now for bank charges?' for more information on the decision.

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