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to think this shouldn't be allowed

(20 Posts)
LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:19:17

Firstly, sorry because I've already posted elsewhere for advice on this, but if anyone can give any advice it would be really gratefully received.

My sister lives in France. She is quite young and vulnerable and I am very worried about her. She isn't great with money.

She sent a cheque, which took her over her agreed overdraft (bank LCL). They, understandably, charged her €25, is per their agreed fee. This charge then caused her to go further into her overdraft, so they charged another €25. This kept happening every few hours until she noticed today, a week later. She now owes the bank €600 in charges. He has asked her boss for an advance on her pay to pay this, which means if I can lend her some money (I don't have much) she can pay her rent. But she won't be able to afford food, and won't have enough for next month's rent.

Are they allowed to do this? It seems so unfair and so extortionate. She has spoken (and pleaded, and cried) to her bank manager, who won't budge. What can she do? AIBU to think this is fucking ludicrous and that it shouldn't be allowed. It wouldn't here (UK) I'm sure.

PeanutGallery Fri 02-Sep-11 11:27:01

There has been a big legal case about these kind of bank charges in the UK in the last couple of years. The courts decided that the charges were legal.

The OFT is looking into way to encourage the banks to reduce their charges (and some have reduced their charges already) but they still exist and are still legal.

It's shit, particularly when fees are charged upon fees like has happened for your sister sad. But I am not sure there is much that can be done about it except being super careful never to go over your limit.

I don't know the position in France though, it might be different.

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:31:14

Thanks. smile Not looking good, is it? sad

RVF400 Fri 02-Sep-11 11:32:21

Firstly, I'm sorry to hear about your sister's situation. It does seem ridiculous to us Brits used to cheap credit. However, I used to live in France and I know that the way they deal with these things is substantially different to us in the UK. Going over one's agreed overdraft limit is actually a punishable offence in France, and as such is taken much more seriously. The usual course of action involves removal of one's credit facilities, bank cards, cheque books etc. The bank has the right to close your account and pursue you for all charges, and it's unlikely that any other bank will agree to open an account in your name, unless it is on severely restricted terms. I would expect hefty fees to be part and parcel of this, although 600 Euros seems pretty extortionate.
Sorry this is not very positive. They have a completely different attitude to debt and lending, and that's reflected in the banks' t&cs I'm afraid.

PeanutGallery Fri 02-Sep-11 11:35:45

I wonder if there is some sort of Ombudsman in France for this sort of thing? And/or some kind of organisation like Watchdog? There probably is.

If so it might be worth your sis writing to them and telling the bank that she's done so. Even if the charges are legal, the banks don't want to get a worse bad reputation, so where there is an example that makes them look particularly bad (like this one, where she's basically had 600 euros of charges for one slip up) they might be willing to let it go rather than get bad publicity.

PeanutGallery Fri 02-Sep-11 11:37:11

Cross posted with RVF maybe in that case the bad publicity thing wouldn't be such a factor with a French bank. Still might be worth a try though.

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:38:44

sad she's so desperate, I don't know how to help her. sad

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:39:16

Thank you by the way, and I think complaining to as many people as possible is the only thing to do.

TheMonster Fri 02-Sep-11 11:40:55

What a shitty situation. Lloyds did this to me a few years ago.
I think she needs to go into the bank and cause a fuss.

hopenglory Fri 02-Sep-11 11:47:26

Bad publicity won't make a jot of difference. French banks are very strict about unauthorised spending and don't try to hide it like the English banks. As RVF said, there may well be restrictions placed on her banking facilities too

Theala Fri 02-Sep-11 11:47:28

Tell her to get in touch with AFUB (http://www.afub.org). They should be able to help her. They have a page with mediators for each bank that she should also contact: http://www.afub.org/mediateurs.php.

Tell her to kick up a fuss and to keep kicking up a fuss till the bank agrees to cut the charges, which they probably will do eventually.

Also, tell her to never ever again write cheques that she can't cash, as she risks interdiction bancaire, as described by RVF above, which is very very serious. Finally advise her to strike up the friendliest relationship possible with her bank manager/conseiller once this has all been sorted.

Good luck to her.

RVF400 Fri 02-Sep-11 11:48:48

Does your sis speak good French? This is the kind of situation where someone with only basic-level French is going to struggle to be taken seriously by the banks in France and get their point across to the right (i.e. senior) staff. Perhaps the best way to start is by making a written complaint, then there's a record of what has been done, and she can get someone to check it all makes sense. (The number of times I started a conversation confidently, only to be beaten down by some know-it-all admin clerk within a couple of minutes.... reduced me to tears a couple of times sad )

This website has some template letters to send to banks for various situations, including contesting charges and asking for more time to pay.

www.acabe.fr/zonebanque/index.htm

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 02-Sep-11 11:52:13

It's not a good situation but isn't this a good opportunity for her to learn how to manage things for herself? You could help her word some letters to the bank & plead for clemency. You can offer moral support. But otherwise - and I don't know what classifies her as 'vulnerable' - she'll have to do what we all do at some point and treat it as a learning experience. e.g. remind her to check her account daily rather than leaving it a whole week and having a nasty surprise...

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:52:51

Thank you all so much, that's really helpful.

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 11:54:39

Her French is very good.

I say she's vulnerable as she comes from a very difficult background and has had a lot of issues with depression, self-confidence etc. Being in France is, I think, a way of proving herself. I just wish it was a little easier for her. sad

RVF400 Fri 02-Sep-11 11:56:28

One thing that really annoyed me in France (there were many....) was the length of time it took for card payments and direct debits to show on my account. A simple shop transaction by debit card could take up to 5 working days to appear, which I found made it very difficult to keep track of what I was spending. I had to have a much larger "buffer" against my overdraft limit than I would do here. Perhaps worth mentioning this to her.

hopenglory Fri 02-Sep-11 12:00:40

Also, my French bank has an English speaking advisor, great help when it comes to avoiding potential pitfalls that the banking language can provide. It might sound obvious but has she actually asked if there is somebody who can speak to her in English?

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 13:45:06

Good idea, thanks. smile

diddl Fri 02-Sep-11 15:00:05

I´m astounded that she was charged every few hours?

What I hate about this situation is that it´s often a genuine mistake & the person being punished is generally good with money.

LoopyLoopsPussInBoots Fri 02-Sep-11 15:38:13

I know diddl. 24 charges over the course of a week for one error. Madness.

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