Is MSE getting too Political on bank charges? has always been political (small p), but recently – as regular site users will be aware – the weekly email has gone Political, first including an email from Nick Clegg and this week from David Cameron. Both were replying to an open letter I’d written on bank charges reclaiming.

While there’ve been many favourable responses from MoneySavers, a few have said “they’re just doing it for electoral gain”, and others “you shouldn’t be giving them space – it’s not what this sites about”. I wanted to answer those concerns.

The site is unabashedly pro-bank charge reclaiming

This site has been campaigning on bank charges since almost the beginning. Since January 2006 it’s been something both the website and I have invested a huge amount of time and effort in.

We’re of course aware that not everyone agree with that stance – no substantial issue ever gets support from all quarters – yet no one can be under any illusions of the site’s stance… we’re unabashedly biased towards the success of reclaimers.

Now bank charges has to turn political

Assuming the House of Lords agrees bank charges are subject to fairness rules (as the high court and court of appeal have) the next step is for the Office of Fair Trading to say whether it thinks they actually are unfair, something it has already indicated it will do.

Yet that doesn’t mean reclaimers will get their money back… it just establishes the legal position; getting cash back could still entail going to court or the ombudsman. Perhaps there will be an application system as with endowment misselling, or, as I’ve been pushing (see Nick Clegg and David Cameron news stories) even an automatic payout system.

How this last stage works is about political and regulatory will – and that’s why it’s crucial for politicians to get involved.

We need to know what they think

Whatever your views on bank charges, you can’t deny the size and scale of this. Over a million people are currently on hold (see Bank charges guide to put a claim in), and many millions more will be eligible if automatic payouts happen. It could cost £10 billion pounds, with some of the money coming from state-owned banks.

Yet since the campaign started, we’ve hardly heard a dicky bird from politicians about this, an issue which impacts so many.

Some have said that’s because it’s been purely a legal case (I don’t agree but I accept there’s an argument on it), yet that time’s ending; we already have a binding, precedent-setting decision that these charges are governed by fairness rules, it’s only after the banks chose to appeal a second time things ground to a halt.

Now we’re now nearing the end phase I think it’s crucial we know where our leaders stand. And that’s the aim here – to find out (and of course lobby) what their view on payback is.

Of course I know what I want them to say, but even if their viewpoint is the opposite of that, knowing the position is crucial.

Now two party leaders have written to the site to reply, and only one is left. I hope my next blog on here (or the one after) will include my open letter for Gordon Brown on this issue. If he chooses to reply of course he’ll get the same space the other leaders have had.

The aim here isn’t a partisan polemic – it’s to find out and clarify where the leaders stand on this crucial issue. I believe that’s an important goal.

And as for electioneering or saying things purely to appeal to the electorate, we can’t complain both ways. We’re angry with them for saying nothing, angry with them when they do something we disagree with, then we berate them for being populist when they say something we like. For me, I just think it’s important our politicians engage.

Comment & Discuss.