Undercover reporters have allegedly found that NatWest staff members are urging customers to reclaim bank charges – at the same time as the bank’s lawyers are fighting tooth and nail to defend them.

The Times has revealed that financial guidance staff at the bank’s MoneySense unit told its secret investigators to write to their respective financial institutions to reclaim the penalties.

Reporters visited four different branches and only one did not recommend doing so.

A NatWest spokesperson has refuted all the allegations.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is the parent of NatWest, which itself is now majority-owned by the taxpayer after the recent bail-outs.

According to the newspaper, it is one of six high street banks that is battling the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the Court of Appeal to put the brakes on an investigation into the penalties.

Phil Jones, personal finance campaign at Which?, told The Times: “It is hypocritical and bizarre that while RBS is levying these unfair charges on customers its own advisers are encouraging customers of other banks to reclaim them.

“RBS should throw in the towel on the current court case along with the other high street banks and refund all the customers who have been hit by these unfair charges in the past.”

It was also reported that one staff member at the bank told an undercover journalist that she had applied for refunds herself and that template letters are available online.

Consumers who wish to get their money back can use the Small Claim Court’s Money Claim Online service – which has been in operation since 2002.

Net Lawman reports that one of the main reasons for the recent surge in the use of Money Claim Online is that “thousands of people have started suing their banks for levying unfair overdraft charges”.

“The Consumer Action Group, which has been behind this campaign, claims that 45,000 people have registered with its own website this year and that it knows of at least 750 claims which have been lodged with the county courts,” it adds.

The website states that the online process is simple and straightforward – taking around 15 minutes – and aggrieved consumers can sue for any amount below £100,000.

All that is needed is an email address in England or Wales, while the defendant must also live on these shores.

Following registration and submission of the money claim a small fee is required and at this stage no evidence is needed; consumers will just be required to state it in concise detail and be accurate.

“You must tell the truth; otherwise you could be prosecuted for contempt of court,” the site advises.

The Times reports that some banks have charged customers almost £40 for being overdrawn by a few pence and they make billion of pounds a year from this practice.

However, thanks to the Small Claim Court’s Money Claim Online service, if you wish to make a small claim it is now quick and easy to do so.

Written by Christopher Evans

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