Hull judge threatens to dismiss overdraft charge cases
In the latest twist in the continuing saga over claims against banks for overdraft charges that customers believe are illegally high, a judge at the county court in Hull has warned that he might well dismiss claims by 20 individuals suing for a refund of the charges. He has issued a written order stating that he will likely dismiss their cases on 4 July because the recent decision by a judge in the Birmingham county court, ruling in favor of Lloyds TSB (LSE: LLOY) means that they have “no reasonable prospect” of prevailing before the court. This is the first time a judge has cited the Birmingham decision as a precedent.
Some bank customers who are in the process of suing for return of overdraft charges have questioned this new ruling as inconsistent in light of the fact that other judges have decided in the customers’ favor after the banks have failed to send a representative to the court proceedings. Some judges have even threatened to sanction the banks for abuse of process for taking the cases to court and then settling out of court just before the actions are to come before a judge.
It has come to seem, some say, that the success of a claim against a bank such as these depends entirely on which court – or even which judge – hears the case. In legal terms, the Birmingham case did not set a formal precedent, but judges are entitled to read the decision in that case and decide whether or not they agree with the judges reasoning.