Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Money Grabbing B******

I'm generally a very calm and chilled out person but, possibly as other blog posts have illustrated, sometimes certain things do get me very annoyed, upset, angry and stressed. I think generally I'm in need of letting off some steam or spleen-venting so I'll indulge myself with a little rant about two such things now.

First of there are the banks, or in my case, the Nationwide Building Society. There has been a recent court case over the legality of bank charges and whether these are fair. From what I understand this has now collapsed and the banks are claiming a victory. No matter what the charges are still unfair - lawyers may be able to argue that black is white but it still won't change the facts.

I have an ongoing issue with Nationwide where they charged me for cheques accidentally written against the wrong joint account. The first incident was refunded the second not. They then continued to add charges to the account (as it was now overdrawn - no overdraft on it) but the only reason it was in this state was because of the charges they continued to apply, £20 each time. I did finally get some refund and was about to close the account when, yep, you guessed it, another charge.

Charging someone who has a regular income is annoying, greedy, etc ... when you are dealing with someone who is in the process of trying to sort out their finances and a bank, Nationwide again, slap on £90 for direct debits and refuse to refund them, that's when you start to wonder whether the charges are fair at all. It seems even more exorbitant when you remember that these are automated transactions; it would have actually not cost the bank anything to reject them, it would have just been done by a computer.

Obviously I'm being naive; the reason I can get a good rate of in-credit interest and the other services I enjoy is because the bank I choose is ripping off those less fortunate with bank charges and inflated interest rates. I guess that is how things work and I shouldn't complain too much. Then again I think I'd be happier with the whole situation if the banks would just be honest and not try and say that the charges are justified and that customers should be more responsible with their money. In reality they want you to be irresponsible!

And now we come to parking charges. What is the justification for these? Are they a deterrent? Punishment? Or simply a revenue stream? A case in point is the charge that York City Council slapped on me for parking on a residential street when they were carrying out regular cleaning. First of all I wasn't aware this was happening (not a resident of that street or York at the time) and second, the only sign I would have passed was likely obscured by parked cars or at the very least not in my line of sight when I was concentrating on driving, at night, safely down a road flanked on both sides by said vehicles.

Explaining all of this doesn't seem to have made a difference and it's now getting to the point where they are trying to recover the money having gone to the DVLA to get my address to send me various charge/penalty notices. Leaving aside that potential invasion of privacy and the dubious arrangement whereby councils and private parking enforcement companies can just get your personal details without you having committed any crime (so without any oversight), what do they hope to achieve by pursing people in this way? Is it to upset and stress their victims? It's not nice getting letters detailing dire consequences for not paying in large, unfriendly, letters!

The only conclusion I can come to in both of these cases is that the organisations concerned are just basically trying to grab money with little thought for how people feel. These places don't care about "fairness" or looking after customers. residents or visitors, no, it's just about squeezing every last penny out of them. Yes, I know there will always be charges of some kind but I think in many areas now it has long ago past the point where these were in any way justifiable, now it just seems to be common practice to try and penalise anything possible with some kind of fee, penalty or other money-grabbing scheme.


Melissa said...

If you park on a street here that is scheduled for cleaning, you won't just get a parking ticket, your car will be towed away and locked up, and you won't get it back until you pay the fine for illegal parking, and the considerable towing fee. But, to there credit, they do mark the streets well with an abundance of temporary signs, put up days in advance of the scheduled cleaning.

As for the banks, they are always looking for cheap ways to make money. Fees for checking on accounts that don't maintain a minimum balance, overdraft fees, credit card service fees, jacking up credit card interest rates when minimum payments are not made, etc. Overdraft fees always hit the poorest people the worst. Since they operate on the margins, they can't afford overdraft protection, and rarely have a cushion in their account to protect them. It's so easy for them to accidentally overdraw their accounts, and twice as hard to pay the mounting fees that result from an overdraft. But it's always been like that and I don't think it will ever change.

Melissa XX

caroline said...

I got a parking ticket in Edinburgh having to drive because of a train strike! I parked where I had parked for 30 years with no restrictions in an empty street, did not know charges had started.

So they got my money but the shops that day lost more profit than the ticket cost because I was no longer in the mood to shop. more to the point I changed my shopping habits and the city has lost countless hundreds since, for example my last two computers I bought online while the first came from the Edinburgh shop!

Sure they think they know what they are doing, sadly they don't.

Caroline xxx