Fury as Banks Get Tough in Fees Fight; CUSTOMERS STILL FORCED TO WAIT DESPITE COURT WIN OVER UNAUTHORISED OVERDRAFTS

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Byline: JO THORNHILL

ANGER is mounting over the refusal by banks to back down and refund excessive overdraft charges to hundreds of thousands of customers who have lodged complaints.

The hardline stance follows a decision last Thursday by the Court of Appeal to dismiss the banks' plea over a High Court verdict on the controversial account charges.

It was a victory for customers who have argued that the fines for accidentally slipping into the red were excessive and unfair. But within moments of the ruling, the banks declared they would continue the battle against their customers by appealing again, this time to the House of Lords. The case could drag on well beyond next year.

In the meantime, all customer cases are on hold due to a waiver on complaints imposed by the Financial Services Authority and banks continue to charge for unauthorised borrowing - earning an estimated [pounds sterling]2.5billion a year.

The banks' stance has angered customers, who as taxpayers now own many banks and have pledged billions of pounds to save them from collapse.

Websites of consumer lobby groups and other campaigners are buzzing as bank customers vent their anger.

Many customers claim that most of the banks, which have recently reported massive losses, including a record [pounds sterling]24 billion by RBS NatWest, are cynically seeking to delay the case - and any payouts - as long as possible.

One customer commenting on Financial Mail's sister website thisismoney.co.uk says: 'The banks have held on to the money from whenever they made this arbitrary and abusive charge and now they get to keep it until 2011.'

Consumer lobby group Which? has called on the banks to surrender and repay customers immediately. 'This case has been going on too long and it is about time the banks tried to regain some dignity and paid customers their dues,' says Doug Taylor, spokesman at Which? 'Another appeal and more delays will only act to further damage the already tattered reputation of the banks.'

Adam Thomsett, director at challengeyour.com, a website that helps consumers reclaim bank charges - taking a 20 per cent cut, plus VAT, of any money won back - says he has tens of thousands of cases on hold. He says: 'Once again our clients' cases are in limbo.

The signs are promising that we will win the battle, but the delays are frustrating.'

CHARLES Holt, 58, a labourer from Preston, Lancashire, has a claim against Lloyds TSB for more than [pounds sterling]8,000 in unauthorised overdraft charges and related interest dating back six years - the legal limit allowed on claims. …