Consumer watchdogs have urged customers to fight their banks for a full refund of unfair charges.

They said powerful tools were available to challenge banks, as highlighted in The Argus's two-part series on reclaiming charges, and consumers must make use of them.

Banks have already repaid tens of thousands of pounds to customers in Sussex who asked for their charges back. Every day, dozens more are joining the campaign and threatening to take their banks to court.

Following our story on Saturday about how to beat the banks, readers have contacted us about their experiences.

Among them was choreographer Charles Linehan, 44, who has won back £387 from Lloyds TSB and is now claiming at least £1,000 from Co-op Business.

He said he had become frustrated by the way Lloyds TSB had handled his overdraft and decided to take action.

Mr Linehan, of Rochester Street, Brighton, said: "This is something everybody should be doing and I would really encourage people to look into it.

"I found it very easy to do and the more I read, the more confident I got.

"It was quite daunting at first but there is a lot of support out there and you just need to follow the instructions.

"The thing I like best is that I set the terms and conditions for the bank and when they need to reply to me by.

"It is a complete reversal of them setting the terms and charging if I am one day late making a payment or go a fraction over my limit."

Carla Newey, of Highbank, Bolnore Village, Haywards Heath, is due to fight Lloyds TSB in court on February 13.

She is asking for £2,000 back and hopes the bank will make an out- of-court settlement before then, like most banks do.

Most of her charges were accumulated on her student bank account while studying to be a social worker.

Mrs Newey, 25, said: "The charges can make life hell. I was once charged about £190 in a month, which is a lot of money.

"It is definitely worth trying to get your money back but you have to be prepared to persevere with it and hang in there.

"Banks will try to intimidate you and encourage you not to do it but it is worth sticking it out.

"I would encourage people to keep all their paperwork, read the forums on the internet and not give up."

Rosa Chaz, of Midhurst, is a member of the Consumer Action Group and said she was in the process of starting a claim and had requested copies of her statements for the last six years.

Groups including Which? and the Consumer Action Group have demanded banks stop over-the-top penalties imposed on people who go overdrawn or have insufficient funds for direct debit and cheque payments.

They claim most of the "unjust charges" are not legally enforceable, even if listed in the terms and conditions of an account or loan.

Which? estimates bank customers are paying at least £4.7 billion every year on default charges.

It argues that fees of up to £39 are unfair and excessive because they do not reflect the true administration costs of dealing with the problem.

The Office of Fair Trading is investigating unauthorised overdraft and credit card default charges.

Doug Taylor, personal finance campaigner at Which?, said: "These charges are nothing but an easy money-spinner for the banks.

"We think charges should be fair and reflect the costs involved. They should not be, as they are now, an arbitrary figure picked to make the most money out of unsuspecting customers.

"Banks and building societies have been hiding behind unacceptable excuses for too long. It simply cannot cost up to £39 to send a letter."

If you have beat your bank or would like more information, call 01273 544536, or visit and post a comment.

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