There's confusion in the courts over bank charges.
A judge in Hull says he will throw out the cases of 20 customers who are trying to get overdraft charges back from their bank.
Other judges are still finding against the banks.
We asked for your comments, a selection of which are below. This debate is now closed.
I claimed and got my money back. Banks are ripping us all off and they know it.
I am sure the judge that ruled against refunding has more money than all of us and has never been in hardship. The banks cause the normal person to go into the red then charge highway robbery charges. I'm sure Dick Turpin will be laughing in his grave at this.
Bring on people power.
Simon Francis, London
I claimed £630 but was offered £500 as a gesture of goodwill. I chose the £500 option as it was quicker (promised within 10 days) and I didn't have the risk of losing the case.
Paul Mitchell, Swansea
My accounts were fine, until I got long-term sickness. Problems with benefits payments and other issues meant that my finances went in to turmoil. Suddenly at the worst time possible, charges upon charges started being levied at me. In the last 12 months these charges have hit £1,500, and every time the bank takes charges out, it invariably sends me overdrawn again and thus the cycle of charges perpetuates.
Peter Nicholls, Stoke-on-Trent
The big problem in the debate on bank charges is distinguishing between the genuinely unfortunate and those who want a free ride at everyone else's expense. My bank advised me recently that it gives a warning instead of a fine for a customer's first infringement. This is an excellent idea as it can help to resolve mistakes and misunderstandings early. Also, a complaining customer who has ignored a warning will be in a weaker position in court or at the Financial Ombudsman Service. Other banks should follow.
Chris Grey, Guildford
Bank charges would be fair if the amount was appropriate. I was a student and the bank hammered me on charges in that period. Banks take advantage as they have the upper hand and now I can claim my charges back, I am. I have already received my letter saying they are refusing to pay me back my charges as I signed in my terms and conditions when opening the account. But people say they will refuse first of all, well if it comes to court I'm going, they made my life so hard whilst at college and I want my own back.
Martin Flynn, Oldham Manchester
I am helping my sister to re-claim her charges. We are now on our third initial letter requesting the statement of charges for the last six years. The bank cashed the £10 cheque in February of this year - and denies they have any record of the two former requests. We delivered the second letter by hand in April and the third in early June.
Graham Hillman, London
I have managed my accounts for 41 years and never been overdrawn, I have not even used the overdraft facility given. This is despite not earning large wages. Please explain, because I am getting madder and madder at you constant whinging on about it.
Sue Dennis, Princes, Risborough
I am just about to take my bank to court about charges made on my account in previous years. They had a severe impact on my life at the time and the monthly charge was applied as a matter of course regardless of any efforts I made to resolve the situation. It concerns me that many people will just roll over in the face of the mighty clout that the banks possess but I for one, think it's wrong and they should be held to account. I am however concerned that some judges are now wavering with their decisions and my suspicious mind thinks it's the corporate power coming into play and the banks will wriggle their way out of another display of their misuse of power.
Graham Brewis, Newcastle upon Tyne
The majority of people who have fallen victim to these charges are either on low incomes or are people with young families who most likely have a struggle each month to make ends meet. These people are often put in terrible situations where they have to choose between ensuring all their monthly commitments are met or putting food on the table and reasonable clothing on their and their children's backs. Our banking institutions have no morals or ethics and care about one thing only, their profit margin. They care not a jot about the misery they have caused most of these people who on the most part are honest, hard working members of society. I for one would not object to paying around £10 per month for my current account if it meant an end to this ridiculous practice which verges on the criminal.
I have successfully reclaimed over £1,500 from my old bank. I still remember the pain the bank caused me as I finished university. I took great pleasure in taking them to court. They never presented any evidence or turned up at the case, I got two judgements in my favour. My favourite part of the process was sending two sheriff officers into the Head Office of the Bank in Edinburgh to get my money back! How much are the banks costing us now? I mean at the end of the day the public purse pays for the court system and the banks not turning up and playing the system is tying up 1000s of hours of court time! That's my money as well!!
The French system would actually make people think twice about going overdrawn and hence charges would be reduced. Cheques are accepted as a cash payment. French law makes a cheque equivalent to cash; it is therefore illegal to write a cheque if you do not have the funds in the account to cover the payment. A cheque can only be cancelled if it is lost, stolen or if there is a suspicion of fraud. If you do write a cheque that the bank cannot pay, they are obliged to report it to France's national banking authority, the Bank de France, who can impose an interdit bancaire which forbids you from using cheques for five years.
Javier Freire-Banos, Bristol
As the Birmingham case doesn't set a legal precedent, any judge can either agree or disagree with that judgement.
John Lilburne, London
I'm sympathetic to those who make an occasional miscalculation that results in a single disproportionate penalty or a rapid accumulation of multiple penalties attributable to a single event. But as someone who generally remains in credit, I have no wish to end up paying more for my banking services because of serial offenders who think that it's ok to spend money they do not have and treat fines as an occupational hazard. The fact that the law may give them some redress for their past folly will surely mean that responsible users of banking services will have to pay more in future. Why do consumer campaigners not see this?
If these penalty charges represent the true cost of returning a direct debit, re-presenting a cheque and so on, then why are the banks unwilling to defend these charges through the legal process and why have millions been paid back to claimants prior to their court date?
I have successfully claimed back £3,000 from the bank. When I looked back at the statements at one point in a two week period I was charged over £250 in charges. This was at a time when my husband had lost his job. I do feel the banks are not helpful in times of trouble as I had asked for a temporary overdraft only to be refused. Had I had this overdraft I would not have been charged. Banks fall over themselves to help now we have a joint income of over £40,000 per year. I refuse everything they offer now and take my business elsewhere.
Marcelle Thompson, West Midlands
Who does this judge think he is? The cases he refers to are not binding. He should remember what his position is. An arbitrary decision like that is liable to find him seeking a new job, never mind a precedent.
Steve Rowntree, Manchester
If there is an issue it's only the magnitude of the charges. Surely nobody can claim ignorance of the fact that charges will be applied if they break the rules? One thing is for sure, if the banks lose the current fight, free banking is set to disappear.
If the people who incur bank charges were to put as much effort into managing their financial affairs as they do in trying to get those charges refunded, they would not be going overdrawn in the first place. These people remind me of the motorists who bellyache about speed cameras.
To those people happy with bank charges: I hope you can sleep easy knowing that your "free banking" is being paid for by low income people, desperately struggling to make ends meet as they are charged unlawful amounts by the banks. Regardless of whose fault it is when they go overdrawn, they should only be charged a fair and appropriate amount.
The banks contention that overdraft charges are for a "service" are simply ludicrous. Charging £30 a day for what must be an entirely automated process is simply ludicrous and greedy.
Barry McMillan, London
I myself banked a cheque for £20,000 reclaimed from my bank last week. I have reclaimed over £27,000 up to date and have further claims in the pipeline. I would be happy to be interviewed to describe the jubilation of winning after the six years of stress and misery I have had to endure trying to overcome these unlawful and totally disproportionate charges which were the main cause of the closure of our business.
Mr A Smith
All this is now turning into a complete shambles. We now have county court judges effectively using "case law" when no precedent has been set by a higher court. Judges are effectively ignoring the fact that the majority of charges are both unfair and illegal as the law currently stands. What is needed is either a claimant or bank to appeal a case, or preferably the OFT to ensure that the amount being charged by the banks reflects actual loss rather than the punitive "fines" which they currently impose. In the meantime judges should continue to do their job where there is an absence of case law and judge each individual case on its own merits.
Personally, I had three separate cases for such unlawful charges settled by Lloyds TSB in early March 2007, each for 100% of the amounts claimed, plus 8% interest and court fees. Lloyds TSB just paid the money into my account without any notice (total: In excess of £8,500). Does that sound like a bank that feels it is on safe grounds? The fact of law is that charges should represent the banks' cost and should not include an element of profit. For those that criticise my failings in running up such charges, this is not the issue. The issue is the point of law and the banks are only too aware of the same.
Helford, West Devon
Banks only let you go overdrawn to charge you ridiculous penalties. When one's balance reaches £0, withdrawals should be refused. Secondly, the way banks try to disguise charges as an administration cost is wrong, they are fooling nobody. Multi-billion pound profits yet they still take poor people's hard-earned money for accidentally going just 20p overdrawn. It's just greed. I don't want a bank account. I hate banks, but how will I get paid without one? I'm forced to let these greedy banks take my money then invest a massive percentage of it to make even more money, and they call it free banking!
Think of the alternatives. You crash your car - you claim on your insurance - surprise, your bank did not pay your premium! Why? Because you did not have fund in your bank account. Stop abusing the banks. It's their money.
My bank tried to fob me off over a period of time and I eventually got fed up with it. I wrote them a letter giving them 14 days to respond favourably or they would be taken to court. They responded favourably!
These bank charges are clearly a penalty, not a service charge. I think the judge in Hull is trying to push these cases into the High Court for a binding judgement. The judges all over the land must be fed up with these cases and the strain they must have put on the court system. I just hope the judgement agrees with the customers, many of whom have found themselves in awful financial situations because of these charges.
It's now a postcode lottery - depends on what district judge you get and where you live. It calls the whole county court system into question. It's a farce and the banks win again!
J S French, Christchurch
Why do people pay bank charges? If you manage your account sensibly, it is totally unnecessary. Banks pay me. If any start to charge, I close the account. Last year I made over £300 on current accounts.
John Wallace, Leighton Buzzard
Bank charges are there to deter people from going over their agreed limit. Ok - so some bank charges are pretty high, but if you have already been made aware of the consequences, then why shouldn't the banks charge us? Also, when I have gone over my limit, there has been a reason for it. When the bank made me aware that I would be receiving a charge, I called the branch to explain the reason and the branch cancelled the charges.
Jenny Callan, Glasgow
If you lend money to a bank they take their time to up the interest rate they pay when the Bank rate rises. If you borrow, they increase their rate immediately. You have a choice. Rearrange your relationship to suit your position. I've just closed a credit card account because of inflexible late payment penalties. I'm going to switch my e-savings to a bank that ups the savings rate when base rates changes. Learn the rules and play the game.
After 25 years in finance I can assure you that £30 charges are daylight robbery. They love it. Why don't banks reject any spending over available funds/stop direct debits? Because they want to charge the £30
I have to say that I am frightfully annoyed at the way people mis-manage their financial affairs and expect the banks to pick up the tab. Anyone who has a bank account must act responsibly and simply not go overdrawn. Remember the advice of the great Thatcher: "Never spend money that is not your own." Perhaps the problem could be solved by the banks themselves. They must stop providing accounts to people who don't deserve it.
I have received a payment from my bank of nine tenths of the claim, the remainder was reclaimed from a loan company that caused most of the problems by presenting the direct debit mandate too early, in fact by three days. This caused the charges, which I have got back. I did alter the letter slightly so to appear open to suggestions on how to resolve the problem, so not to offend the bank too much. I didn't fancy changing banks. I don't mind the charges as long as they are reasonable, and if it caused by a third party, they should be charged, not me.
Ian Best, Wakefield
I think bank charges are a reasonable amount to pay for your mistakes, but in this welfare state they are not compatible.
James Dupoint, Birmingham
I lost my job and struggled for four months to find another. During those four months I sold my possessions and did everything I could to keep my head above water. It came to a point where I had £30 in my bank account and a direct debit for the gas came off. The bill was for £30.70 - the bank bounced the direct debit and then charged me £39 for doing so. They took the £39 charge, which then put me into an unauthorised overdraft, for which I was then charged £27. All for the sake of 70p. I had spoken to the bank about my situation, kept them up to date and when I asked for some help (an authorised overdraft) I was told to "have a car boot sale". About six months ago (after finding employment) I tried to claim my charges back, I was offered a tiny settlement and the threat that my account would be closed.
Stuart Mundy, Aberdeen
I don't see what all the fuss is about, when you join a bank you sign a contract which gives details of all charges/fines for detractions from said contract. So how on earth can people then claim they have been unfairly charged when they agreed to the charges in a legally binding contract? If you don't like the bank's charges try changing banks or how about sticking to the terms of the contract you signed?
Paul Dixon, Falkirk
The banks make enough money in interest. The level of these charges is astronomical in comparison to the cost of me going overdrawn. It's unfair, and only the rich will argue otherwise, not because they can afford it, but because their shares are worth more when the banks are making billions. It doesn't matter how careful you are with money, the banks do try dirty tricks to charge you, and it hurts those without the money the most.
These charges are totally unfair! My bank tried to charge me £25 for going overdrawn by £13 for less than 24 hours. To be fair when I complained the charges were refunded - purely because I bypassed the call centre and went straight to customer relations. I also object to the fact that they always take charges in the middle of the following month - two weeks before pay day for the average customer.
I am my father's carer. We are being crippled by bank charges. It feels like an uphill struggle each week. We have no overdraft facilities so the bank is taking charges, sometimes not paying our bills to make sure their payments are secured. On occasions I have received no Carers' Allowance payment to live on because of these charges. We have asked to be refunded but my bank has refused. It feels like a desperate situation for us.
Susan Higgins, Garstang Preston
I was charged £30 by my bank for exceeding my overdraft limit for part of one day (I ended up in credit). It refused to refund the charge because it had given me a refund once before in similar circumstances. I have spent a further £30 on court action and it is going to defend.
Peter Yates, Bristol
Another example of our "it must be someone else's fault" society. If you sign up to a bank account you accept the contract that clearly states under what circumstances you will be subject to charges. All that this campaign will result in is the removal of free banking for all due to the reckless actions of a few.
I don't understand on what basis people are claiming that the banks have acted "unlawfully". I know that if I go overdrawn, my bank will impose a £30 charge. I don't like it but I know that's the deal. It's part of the terms and conditions I signed up to when I opened the account.
Clair Bell, Biddenden
I think bank charges are too high. It does not cost £30 a time to send a letter out.
Adrian Petts-McCarthy, Coventry
These overdraft charges are not fair. They should be doubled.
David Stock, Durham
Within two days on my bank account there were two direct debit transactions, I didn't remember the exact date when these transactions would take funds out of my account, and as a result my account was in debt of £100-120. I paid the same day when I saw this - it was the second day when the account was in debt. My bank charged me £25 in overdraft charges! This is quite a lot. I hope they will pay me the same percentage for keeping my money with them!
I took my bank to court claiming unlawful fees amounting to approx £2,000 (an estimate due to lack of statements on my part coupled with the banks reluctance to provide the missing ones) over the past six years. A lengthy process ensued, from November 2006 until April 2007, the bank went the whole way - sending me letters insisting that their charges were fair, putting up a defence when I made a claim against them. One week before the court was due to make a decision, approx £1,500 was deposited into my account followed the next day by a letter stating that "as an act of goodwill" I had been reimbursed - coupled with a two page printout of all of my charges over the past six years. I can see it now, financial legal departments all over the country employing hard-ball tactics and an uncompromising approach - after all, we're only their customers! Why shouldn't they rip us off? Anyway, victory was mine! And have I looked back? No! Have I felt pity or remorse? No! I only hope that this ever-growing pop-craze will long continue.
My partner recently received a letter from her bank informing her of an impending charge of £35 for exceeding her overdraft limit by the grand amount of 5p. I will let you all draw your own conclusions from this but I suspect the majority will be thinking the same as my partner and I.
John F Beckett, Wakefield
I am all for "penalty charges". I have never been charged any myself and I am pretty certain they means I get a lot of my banking free. I don't earn a fortune but my family and I live sensibly and pay a little (but not a lot) of attention to budgeting. If I know I have an expensive month I work harder or cut back elsewhere on my spending. I don't see why people cannot manage their finances. It's not the hardest thing in the world to do. If you don't have enough cash spend less and work more. Keep up the charges! Keeps me getting 10% on my savings and free banking.
Richard M, Manchester
I am in the process of claiming back my unlawful charges from my banks and I am very confident as I am a member of a very good website and have done my homework! I feel the banks have more knowledge than us and try bully boy tactics to stop us from claiming. Not all of us can afford solicitors, but some are not prepared enough for the court stage. I think you should report on more winning cases to boost morale as some people are getting scared due to the press, the Lloyds win and the Hull Judge business! The banks have won two cases and people are in the 100,000s so I think it's good odds.
Samantha Cox, Cheltenham
I really cannot see what people are complaining about when banks charge them for unauthorised overdrafts. They have in effect taken someone else's money without any authority. In anything other than a banking environment it would be called theft!
For the most part, bank charges are nothing but pure greed from the banks! We live in the day of computers, and for one computer to tell another "no you can't have this money" - there is no way the banks can justify a £35 charge per failed bill! People can run into financial difficulty through numerous reasons, some self inflicted, however, if someone has no funds, with little income and the banks keep adding charges, well, that's the banks just being greedy. They often don't want to help and just want to take what little you have away from you!
Adam Stasiak, Darlington
I don't really feel any sympathy for anyone who is charged. To get charged not only do you have to spend more money than you have in your account, you actually have to go over your overdraft limit. If you not only can't live on your earnings but also not even on your earnings plus the money your bank is willing to lend to you, you should think about ways of cutting your outgoings.
The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.