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FCA asks UK banks for more information on overdrafts

By Marianne Curphey

Concerns over 40 per cent interest charges under new rules

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has asked UK banks to provide more information on the costs of overdrafts to their customers. This is part of an ongoing investigation into the personal finance market.

The regulator had already concluded that the overdraft market was "dysfunctional" and that consumers found it hard to understand and compare charges.

The FCA is now asking for more information about how major banks have set their interest rate charges for overdrafts, as it has emerged that the new rates across the board are high.

The FCA had ruled that banks and building societies must charge the same amount for all overdrafts from April 2020.

"Over the past few days there has been significant comment about many headline overdraft rates, and in particular that major banks have aligned overdraft rates around 40 per cent," the statement said.

"The FCA study into the overdraft market concluded that it was dysfunctional. In particular, consumers found it very difficult to understand what charges they were paying and charges for unarranged overdrafts were very high, regularly 10 times the cost of a payday loan. These charges fell heavily on consumers who are vulnerable."

The FCA's reforms of the market have put an end to high unarranged charges, saving typical borrowers up to £55 per month on an unarranged overdraft of £100 over seven days. Confusing fees and charges have been banned and the cost of overdrafts has been made more transparent. For many occasional borrowers the removal of fees means they will pay less even though their headline rate of borrowing may increase.

"We have now seen the major banks and building societies release their new rates – with most setting very similar prices," the FCA said.

The FCA has been in regular contact with the major banks and has written to ask them to provide evidence of how they have arrived at their pricing decisions.

"We are also being clear that we expect firms to take positive steps to help customers who may be worse off or in financial difficulties as a result of these changes. We have asked to see their plans for how they are dealing with the most affected customers. We expect banks to take steps to support them, for example firms could reduce or waive interest, offer a continuation of overdraft borrowing at current rate of interest, or agree a repayment programme – including a personal loan."

Customers who are worried about the impact of any changes should contact their provider.

"We will be keeping a close eye on the market and we will act should we see continued harm," it said.

FURTHER READING: UK mortgage approvals at their highest since 2009

FURTHER READING: UK banks suffer PPI losses

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