On 15 November 2007, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it has submitted its reply to the defences and counterclaims made by the banks in the forthcoming test case in the High Court into the level of unauthorised overdraft charges and that it will not publish the results of its market study into personal banking until after the test case has been decided.
In April 2007, the OFT announced that it was launching a market study into retail banking pricing. This was designed to allow the OFT to consider wider questions regarding competition and price transparency for current accounts, and the fairness of unauthorised overdraft charges. The results of the market study were expected by the end of 2007.
At the same time, it also announced that it was launching, in parallel, an investigation under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 into the fairness of personal current account unauthorised overdraft charges and returned item fees. It then proceeded to lodge a test case in the High Court on 31 August 2007 in relation to unauthorised overdraft charges and their fairness under the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. At that time the OFT stated that the case was complementary to the ongoing market study investigation.
Most recently, the OFT announced on 15 November 2007 that it had submitted its reply to the defences and counterclaims made by the banks in the High Court test case. It also used this press release to announce that it had decided that the findings of its market study would not be published in advance of the outcome of the test case. This decision was taken after reviewing the interactions with the court proceedings and taking legal advice.
The test case is expected to be heard between 14 January 2008 and 28 February 2008 and so, the market study results are unlikely to be announced until spring 2008 at the earliest.
Although the OFT will not meet its original timescale of publishing the results of the market study by the end of 2007, this delay in publication does appear to be right decision given that the outcome of the test case will presumably have a strong bearing on the results of the market study.