Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I am unspeakably delighted to hear that the OFT is finally onto the banks.

Here's what happens. I'm self employed, a good chunk of my client still - archaically - pay by cheque. Whole separate issue about how cheques never really clear and they can get the money back like a year later.

So let's say I invoice someone on 1st May, 14 days terms. They usually pay in three weeks or a month. Fine. Then they post me the cheque. It takes a few days. Then I generally wait till I'm next in town to go to the bank.

It takes "three working days" to "clear". So if I pay it in on Monday afternoon, it's not in my account till Thursday. Then, if it's over a not so huge amount, it takes four or five working days.

Because my work is project based, I tend to invoice for largeish sums, not that often. A couple of months ago, I paid in a chunky cheque, waited the three days, found out from my branch that it's five days if it's a largeish sum. Six days later, no money. I call my branch, they don't know where it is, "out there in the ether" is the phrase that - from memory - they used.

Eventually, it turned up. I worked out that the lost interest for the three missing days was around £4.10.

If there are 60 million people in the country, and this happens once a year (and it happens more often to me) to just 10% of them, that's £24.6m.

And banks make you pay charges.

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