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Monday, November 13, 2006

Annual Credit Card Fees To Return

A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) says that annual fees for having a credit card could be making an unwelcome return.

The fees were dropped in the 1990s. However, seemingly the credit card companies and banks are simply not making enough money out of their customers; and want to make even more, by charging people for the privilege of owning a credit card.

This is somewhat ironic, given that retailers are charged a percentage for every credit card transaction they make. In effect the consumer is being hit by a double "whammy".

The excuse that our much "respected" banks and credit card companies are making for this extra fee is that new consumer protection measures are costing them money.

The Office of Fair Trading's (OFT) cap on credit card default charges, and its payment-protection insurance probe, has hit card providers' incomes.

PWC say that we can expect annual fees of around £35 per card.

An OFT spokesman is quoted as saying:

"If we find any evidence of collusion (over the re-introduction of annual fees) that will be very serious indeed.

We are likely to see a 'waterbed effect', whereby charges pushed down in one area pop up somewhere else

Moneyfacts claim that card providers are already getting ready to impose fees.

Michelle Slate, Moneyfacts senior researcher, said:

"Last week Co-op imposed an annual charge and some premium credit cards - with added benefits such as travel insurance - already charge hefty fees.

All it will take is for one of the big providers Barclaycard, MBNA or Capital One to introduce a fee and the rest will follow

The OFT are working under the misguided belief that if banks tried to recoup their losses, through the re-introduction of annual card fees, consumers would "vote with their feet" and cut up their cards.

That's fine if you don't have any debt. However, a very large number of Britons have credit card debts and cannot end their agreement with the companies until that is paid off.

In effect they are a captive market, ripe for the "plucking".

The OFT seems to be a tad naive in its view of how the market works.

It is hardly surprising that people have little respect for the financial services industry or its regulators.

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