'I was only a penny overdrawn but still got hit by £48 charge!'

WHEN a £5 T-shirt caught Julia Turner's eye, she thought she had bagged a bargain.

But it proved to be a costly mistake for the teenager because she only had 4.99 credit left in her account.

Going over her overdraft limit by a single penny triggered 48 worth of charges for the cash-strapped student.

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The 19-year-old, who lives in Newhaven, was stunned when she got a letter from the Bank of Scotland outlining the charges, a 20 administrative fee for going over her 500 limit, plus a further "unauthorised overdraft fee" of 28.

Julia, who is due to start a fashion course in Glasgow after the summer, has been told by the bank that she will have to pay up.

She said: "I thought I had a fiver left on my card so I was shocked to receive the letter.

"I would have paid the 1p in cash if I had any idea I'd gone over. I thought if I ever went over my overdraft my card would be rejected, so I think it's a bit sneaky and misleading that they'd let me spend money and then charge a fortune.

"I am putting every penny towards my college fund so it seems a shame to pay such an unnecessary sum. I read that being overdrawn only costs the bank about 2.50 to fix."

Julia's father, Douglas, said the bank's attitude was a disgrace.

"I remember a time when banks actually cared about their customers," he said. "This practice might be legal but it's not right."

In recent years there has been an ongoing battle between eight high street banks and the Office of Fair Trading, which insists that current overdraft charges are unfair and excessive.

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The issue of whether people can reclaim bank charges has reached the courts and although the OFT recently won the right to investigate overdraft charges, the House of Lords has granted permission for the banks to appeal this decision.

This ruling means the argument will continue and may not be settled by the courts until 2011. Contesting banks include RBS, NatWest, HBOS and Lloyds TSB.

Consumer Focus Scotland said that bank charges should be fair and reasonable in the circumstances. "Bank charges should be proportionate rather than punitive," said a spokesman.

"While consumers have responsibilities as well as rights, and banks have to protect the interests of their customers who never go overdrawn, bank charges should reflect the reasonable costs incurred by the banks.

"Banks also need to consider the cost of cases like this one to their reputations and to the level of satisfaction of their customers."

The Bank of Scotland said it was looking into the case.

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