Small businesses urged to check bank charges

Design consultancies are being urged to check their bank accounts following a survey which suggests that many UK small businesses fall prey to overcharging by banks.

The Bank Action Group, which represents customers in dispute with banks, claims the majority of errors occur in interest charges on borrowing. Michael Leigh, national co-ordinator, claims the Bank Action Group found 34 accounts where errors amounted to a total of 1.3m.

Audit (UK), a commercial account-checking company, claims it found mistakes in 82 per cent of its customers’ 4600 bank accounts over the past four-and-a-half years.

Liberal Democrat MP Alex Carlile, the Bank Action Group’s patron, says: “This is a very useful survey which has served to highlight the problems that small businesses face when dealing with the banks. The survey shows that customers are faced with a shocking level of errors.”

Carlile is calling for a statutory, independent authority to oversee the banks.

But a spokeswoman for National Westminster Bank says: “Our research shows that these figures are not the case. We are very concerned to sort out any queries, which we take very seriously. We do this quickly and free of charge.”

“The vast majority of accounts are run error-free,” a spokesman for the British Bankers’ Association says. “If the banks make a mistake it is in their interest to sort it out quickly. But customers should check their bank statements as carefully as they would check invoices,” he adds.

Design Business Association chief executive Ian Rowland-Hill says the DBA has had no specific complaints from its members about charges levied by the banks. “But they may not be aware of the problem,” he adds. “If they are, they should take it up with their banks immediately.”

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