Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Bank charges website closed down

Letter
Warning letter from webhost 1and1

A website that campaigns against bank overdraft charges has been shut down by its internet service provider.

Penaltycharges.co.uk, set up by Stephen Hone, was closed by 1and1.co.uk, which says it is the world's biggest website hosting company.

The firm alleged that comments on the website's forum amounted to "offering or promoting illegal services".

Mr Hone denied the accusation and has now moved his website to a different host company.

"We certainly do not promote or advise members to borrow money without the intention of paying it back," he told the BBC.

'Deception'

Mr Hone said he believed a complaint about the comments were made by a loans company.

These people are freely admitting that they cannot afford to borrow the money, but borrow it anyway
1and1

"They objected to posts by someone explaining how he could not afford to pay, and who had tried to arrange a repayment programme with them," said Mr Hone.

The web hosting firm said penaltycharges.co.uk had refused to remove the offending comments when asked to do so.

But Mr Hone denied this was the case.

"We did try and speak to them [1and1] but got no response," he said.

In an e-mail to him, the internet company said certain postings on his website's user forum appeared to encourage people borrow money with no intention of paying it back.

"The nature of borrowing money with the intention of never repaying is viewed as deception, and is a clear breach of section 15 of the Theft Act 1968," said 1and1 in its email.

"This link shows one of the forum users telling someone to cancel their contact numbers to avoid contact.

"These people are freely admitting that they cannot afford to borrow the money, but borrow it anyway, and then openly use tactics they have learnt from each other to avoid repaying," it added.

However Mr Hone said he would never condone such behaviour, and if such comments had in fact been published they would have been taken down with a warning to their author.

Campaigner

Mr Hone, from Plymouth, was one of the first people in the UK to go to court to challenge his bank's overdraft charges.

In 2005 he won 2,000 from his bank, the Abbey, which had taken the money from his bank account over a period of six years.

It had been charging him 32 for bouncing his direct debits every time he went overdrawn.

After his victory, Mr Hone became a leading campaigner against bank overdraft charges, in a consumer revolt which culminated last year, when more than 300,000 people successfully reclaimed 570m in the first six months of the year.

Since then, all fresh and unresolved claims have been frozen while the legal issues are thrashed out in the High Court, in a test case between the Office of Fair Trading and seven banks and the Nationwide building society.

The lenders are currently in the middle of a hearing in the Appeal Court, trying to overturn a High Court ruling earlier this year that the OFT has the power, under consumer contract regulations, to decide if the level of bank overdraft charges is fair or not.

Mr Hone's website is now back up and running, hosted by a different company.



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