If by any chance you have incurred wrong or unfair bank charges, banking experts say you can try to reclaim them or come to an arrangement with your bank, especially if you’re in financial hardship.
According to www.moneyadvice.org, you can start by talking directly to your bank. If that doesn’t work, you might be able to get free help from consumer protection organisations if the amount is relatively big.
Is it worth trying to reclaim unfair overdraft charges?
Yes. It takes a bit of effort, but remember that you’ve got nothing to lose. Except, perhaps, some time calling or writing letters. It won’t cost you anything. If you have got a case it will be investigated for free. Your bank won’t penalise you. You won’t be treated differently for complaining.
Who can reclaim charges? Anyone can write or speak to their bank and ask for a refund. Some banks might even write off charges as a gesture of goodwill to a valued customer.
Although going the legal way at the end may take time, it is still possible to get your refund on time especially if you have a genuine case and the bank is not willing to cooporate on time.
The good news is that there are several options you have before proceeding to court.
If your bank refuses, you can always ask the Central Bank of Nigeria Consumer Protection Department to investigate (for free).
There is a need to pursue such refund if you’re struggling to buy necessities and pay bills, or you’ve lost your job.
Experts say you need to seek for refund if the charges are unfair compared to what you did. For example, if you went overdrawn by N500 and were charged N6000.
Other instances when you may have to pursue your refund is when you are stuck in a spiral of charges. This might happen if the charges keep putting you into the red, and the overdraft keeps costing you more in charges.
At times, money saving experts have the best guide on how to reclaim unfair bank fees.
Their guide will help you decide whether to complain, work out how much you might get, complain to your bank, write good complaint letters, with sample letters and templates, and take your case to the CBN consumer protection department if your bank won’t help
However, experts have warned that you also need to avoid using a claims management company. They’ll charge you to manage your case, but you can get the same help for free.
Most online search results about reclaiming bank charges are from claims management companies trying to get money out of you.
These companies will charge you to reclaim money – you can do it yourself using the guide above and avoid paying them a portion of any refund.
Why were you charged in the first place?
It’s no fun getting unfair bank charges, but before you complain, ask yourself why you were charged.
Did you read the CBN’s guide to bank charges? Make sure you understand what you can be charged for. For example, you might be fined for going overdrawn by a small amount, for a short length of time. you may be charged for using e-payment services.
Steps to reclaiming wrong charges
Banks have long been accused of ripping off customers with the high charges they impose for minor account problems.
Penalties can be crippling, with top rates of interest on borrowing, overdraft fees and extra charges for bounced cheques meaning that even a small mistake can end up costing between N5000 and N10,000.
This can be back-breaking for account holders struggling to stay on top of their debts. But the good news is, with a little persistence, those that think they have been charged unfairly, or who are in financial hardship, can reclaim some cash.
According to www.thisismoney.co.uk, the first step before you jump straight in with a complaint is to consider whether charges were applied unfairly.
If the answer to any of the below is ‘yes’, you could be in with a good chance of getting your money back.
According to experts, below are the criteria you need to meet to begin the process of reclaiming your funds:
Were the charges disproportionate?
If you have been charged much more than the cost of rectifying the mistake there could be an argument for reclaiming fees. A prime example of this would be if you were slapped with a N3500 fee for straying beyond your limit by a couple of naira.
Are the charges making it hard for you to get out of debt?
One of the main problems with charges is that, for some, a small transgression can result in a snowball effect, with overdrafts and returned cheques earning extra fees, which make it even harder to get back into the black.
Are you in financial hardship?
If you are struggling financially your bank is under an obligation to treat you fairly and be considerate of your situation.
Those that: struggle to pay existing debts on credit cards and loans, can’t pay their bills, have a disability or illness, have lost their job or seen a drop in income or have penalty charges which are swallowing most of their income, would likely fit into this category.
If it is a one-off charge or the amount was applied in error it can be fairly straightforward to get a refund, by simply making a call to the bank.
For those looking for a refund on several charges the first step will be the same but it may require extra leg work.
Complaints can be made in branch, over the phone, by email or in writing. Always make sure to note down the time and date of any calls, and names of anyone spoken to. If sending a complaint in writing it can be a good idea to follow up with a call to make sure the letter was received.
This is the time to argue your case, so make sure you include reasons as to why you think charges are unfair and what the consequences of the extra fees have meant for your financial situation.
Don’t let your bank dismiss you with bad excuse: Persistence is key when banks try to bluff their way out of paying
Don’t let your bank dismiss you with bad excuse: Persistence is key when banks try to bluff their way out.
You might be surprised at what persistent correspondence can achieve.
Once it has received the complaint, a bank has up to some weeks to look into the case.
The best result after this stage is a full refund, but it may only offer a partial refund or money towards repaying any debts. Alternatively, the claim may be refused altogether.
If the decision doesn’t go your way it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the road.
Remember, in many cases the bank will bluff and write back claiming the charges are not unlawful.
Those claiming under financial hardship may be asked to prove their situation before a refund will be paid. This may mean filling in more forms about income and expenditure.
In some instances, banks may refuse a refund but try to help in other ways.
For example, by stopping further charges, recognising payments to lessen the impact or setting up a plan to help get struggling customers get back on track.
Those still left with financial difficulties even after the bank has made an offer should follow up with the bank again and explain their situation in more detail.
This is the time to be persistent or try to negotiate – consider bargaining for a quick settlement in return for only a partial refund.
Alternatively, this might also be the moment to consider taking your complaint a step further.
Make sure to state your intentions to the bank as even the threat of a legal challenge or report to the CBN may encourage the bank to repay the charges.
This will require signed consent and copies of supporting documents to be sent.
Avoid history repeating itself
The best way to prevent banks ripping you off is to avoid falling into a situation where they can issue you with penalty charges.
It might be easier said than done, but don’t miss payments, don’t go into unauthorised overdraft territory and don’t go for banks you’ve heard mistreat their customers.