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Issue:- 25/26 November 2009

Bank charges ruling marks black day for consumers, or for the banks?

THE Supreme Court ruling in favour of the banks in the bank charges test case that could have cost the banks some £1.7 billion a year, but was this win a PR disaster? The land mark ruling on the 25 November 2009, by the UK's new Supreme Court overturned earlier court rulings that allowed the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) to investigate the fairness in charges for unauthorised overdrafts. This surprise decision has lead to dismay for both bank customers and consumer groups. Before this ruling both the Court of Appeal and High Court have already ruled that charges can be assessed for fairness. Which? Chief executive, Peter Vicary- Smith, says:- “This is a bitter blow for the millions of people who have been patiently waiting to get their bank charges back. Not only does it give banks licence to charge what they like for unauthorised overdrafts, but it could have ramifications for other areas of personal finance. The banks now have no reasons for not introducing other fee charges. The banks have done everything possible to frustrate the OFT throughout this process. The OFT and the Government should now explore other avenues it can pursue to get a fair deal for consumers.” As a spokesman said:- "This is a bombshell, but opens more doors than it closes. We will have to fight harder to change the way the banks work in the UK. The ruling does not say we can not still go back and try again! We still have options of attack. Strangely, the banking industry were expecting the ruling to go against them. This will be short term relief to the UK bank's Legal and Treasury operations, but more of a headache for the marketing arm." Even the court has suggested that more action will follow now that this two years of test case litigation has failed. This statement about the banking industry's predictions that the ruling would go against the banks was backed up as the owner of Abbey and Alliance and Leicester announced, in an apparently pre-emptive move, that they are launching in January 2010 a fee-free account called Zero. Zero account users would have no overdraft fees, authorised or otherwise. But on the other hand, did they see an opening the other banks have not seen? This ruling in the short term will hurt many millions of people who have been waiting to get their bank charges back and could make the UK economy suffer more. Many people were relying on the ruling to help them out, and that would have lead to more cash in the economy! "Unauthorised overdrafts is a big money-spinner for banks, but charging people who do not have cash will only lead to more bankrupts and banks losing out in the end." another expert said. Others stated that banks should think again as this result could come back to haunt them more in the long run. For over a year, there have been a succession of stories that have tarnished the names of High Street banks and, with the loss of nearly 10 million potential claims, it might be the likes of Abbey, and Alliance and Leicester, who will win, if they stick to plans for the likes of Zero. Indeed the Supreme Court ruling might not be entirely beneficial to the mainstream High Street banks. If the ruling had gone through against the banks and unauthorised overdrafts were capped at £12 - as credit card default fees are - then this annual revenue would fall to £860 million. So the ruling has benefited the banking industry to the tune of about £1.7 billion a year. This would have been small change when compared with the revelation that £62 billion emergency funds had been extended to HBOS and RBS to keep their cash points open at the height of the financial crisis last year, for example. Just think what that cash injection into the economy would have done for businesses in the UK, with Christmas only a few weeks off! This ruling also opens up a huge political backlash, as well as new legal lines of attack. With some banks in the UK still sliding towards insolvency, the furore over bank bonuses, the frustratingly low levels of bank lending, the almost open-ended taxpayer support and now a surprise court ruling that gets the banks off the hook for "unfair" bank charges, the banks are the new bad boys and are seen by the public as increasingly unpopular. That and the court’s hints at change, leads to the opening of the flood gates for political intervention by this failing government, in attempts to win back the public and for any new party to be seen as the good guys, should Labour fail to win in 2010. On top of that, the ruling will also make the court service even more unpopular, as many see the system as unfair and a waste of time. This could lead to a large political backlash, that could become far more of a worry for the banks then the refund of the charges! So keep an eye out next year for more action to take place. As said:- "The fight is not over yet... That was only round one!" Also, will groups like Tesco, who are well placed to take on the High Street banks, benefit from the general public revulsion towards high street banking names. This might in the long run create more opportunities for other players to enter the market from outside the sector and damage the banks for more then what they have won!  One banking adviser commented on TV. "Be careful what you wish for, as it might come true." But as one customer said:- "It does not help us now whatever happens in the long term. We feel let down by the system and we now feel no matter what you do, the general public will always lose. You just cannot win any more, as our government and legal system have let the banks get a stranglehold, like weeds in a garden. There is no real competition and to fight on a case by case basis, will be a joke. It is David verses the Giant, except in this case the Giant will always win. So what is the point anymore?"

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MOBILE phones will become the new tickets to ride for Arriva bus customers in the North West as the company becomes the first UK bus operator to introduce mobile phone ticketing for all its regional services.  Customers across Arriva’s regional bus businesses in England, Scotland and Wales, will be able to buy daily, weekly and four-weekly tickets via their mobile phones following the national launch of Arriva’s m-ticketing service.

Arriva’s introduction of m-ticketing is believed to be the largest deployment of its kind in the world, covering approximately 1,000 routes served by Arriva’s regional fleet of 4,500 buses. It will enable passengers to use their mobile phones to purchase tickets and then display them to the driver.

Phil Stone, managing director of Arriva North West, said:- “The mobile phone is an essential part of modern life and m-tickets will give additional flexibility and convenience to our customers.  The launch of m-ticketing across all our regions will mean that millions of bus journeys will be taken using the technology. We believe this represents the largest introduction of its type in the world.  Customers can buy tickets using their phone at anytime from wherever they happen to be. It saves them searching out the cash to buy a ticket and speeds up getting on the bus as they simply show the ticket on the phone display to the driver.  This approach has great advantages over some other mobile ticketing systems as we can roll it out across our networks without any downtime for vehicles or costly on-board technology. We believe the convenience of having the ticket on the mobile will encourage more customers to take up our multi-journey tickets.”

Arriva has worked in partnership with Concept Data Technologies to create the m-ticketing service, which is a free application that is downloaded directly onto customers’ phones. Once downloaded it allows people to purchase a range of tickets. Tickets can be bought either directly through the application via a registered card or by purchasing credit from any PayPoint outlet either by cash or card.  People using the m-ticketing service can save 10% off Arriva 4-weekly saver tickets.

The m-ticketing technology can be operated on any GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) enabled phone. The service also works on Blackberry smartphones and from early 2010 will be iPhone compatible as well. Phones with green screens, which are typically four or more years old, cannot be used. Arriva’s m-ticketing service will work on all mobile networks.

How m-ticket works in 3 simple steps:-

1) Customers can register online now at Once registered, the m-ticket application will be sent - free of charge - to their phone.

2) Select and purchase their ticket. Either by credit/debit card or by cash for people who prefer or don’t have a credit/debit card. For cash top-ups, customers will need to add Arriva credit to their phone, using the m-ticket application’s 'Add-cash' option at a PayPoint outlet or Arriva Travel shop.

3) Activate the ticket on the day and time of travel. Their ticket will be displayed on the mobile phone screen and simply needs to be shown it to driver. The ticket runs from the date of first use, not purchase.


MERSEYSIDE Police have arrested a 16 year old boy on suspicion of endangering an aircraft following an incident in Speke on Friday night in which a laser pen was shone at an easyJet plane landing at Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The plane was landing at Liverpool having set off from Belfast at 5.30pm when the pilot reported to air traffic control that a laser pen had been shone at the cockpit by someone on the ground.

The Merseyside Police helicopter, which was already operating in the south Liverpool area, conducted a search of the area and as it was doing so, a laser pen was aimed at it from below.

The crew relayed the information to police officers on the ground, who stopped a car in Speke at around 6.10pm and arrested a 16 year old boy on suspicion of endangering both aircraft.

He was interviewed by officers and released on police bail pending further enquiries.

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