What we do know is, there’s no need to panic
The first thing to say is there’s no cause for panic. This is not a precedent setting case (in other words no other court has to look at this decision and follow it). Across the country the banks are still paying out many tens of thousands a day (see bank charges success reports).
My strong suspicion is this is an anomalous result in an empty court room; the senior lawyers, including judges, I’ve spoken to tend to hold with the case that Bank Charges are unlawful. While admittedly the banks have now re branded penalty charges as ‘account fees’ this doesn’t change the fact that they’re a disproportionate penalty and should be struck out.
This specific case is the one rare occasion where the bank’s seem to have got lucky with a sympathetic judge. Thankfully they’ve not been lucky in all the other cases with many judges slamming the banks for their tactics. It’s a shame for Mr. Berwick but it doesn’t have any real impact on the other cases… the call is the same: keep on reclaiming like the many 100,000s elsewhere who’ve done it successfully. Remember even in this one exceptional case, as it’s the small claims system, he doesn’t have to pay the banks costs; he just doesn’t get a payout.
What went wrong?
By all accounts not too much. What happened here wasn’t that different to many other cases – the bank put in a defence, was allocated a date, put in a pro-forma response and didn’t turn up in court. Whereas most judges have thrown out the cases at this point; this Judge, for some reason, decided to question the claimant himself and then interpreted the terms and conditions himself. Frankly it’s just one of those exceptional things that can happen; for more on this read this interesting post over on the Consumer Action Group website from its co-founder Marc Gander.
Does anyone know Mr. Berwick?
At this point though, does anyone know Mr. Berwick? I think he should appeal, and if that is a problem financially for him, I would happily consider helping him do so. Please ask him to get in touch.