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Banker of the week

This page is used to highlight a particularly notable villainous act by a bank or building society and which deserves to be publicised. Each week, we will try and bring you a new example of villainy. Please email me with anything that you particularly think would merit inclusion on this page.

Then, at the end of 2007, we will put all the examples to the public to vote on who are the biggest bankers of the year.

For a full listing of bankers of the week, see previous winners.

Ninth villain of 2007: Abbey National plc, as they have costs awarded against them

This time it was good old Abbey. Abbey have never been known to turn up for a court hearing to defend a real substantive claim; but they like to send along barristers to hearings on procedural matters or anything else when they think that they will win. In this case, a hearing had been set for a claim in Birkenhead County Court on 16 November. The claim was for nearly 4,000. The claimant submitted a skeleton argument and various other evidence more than 14 days before the hearing to the court and to Abbey. Abbey filed no papers – no change there then.

Two days before the hearing, the claimant phoned Abbey to ask if they would be attending the hearing. He told them that he would be represented by a lay representative (that was me, Bob the Bankbuster) who would have to travel from Cornwall for the hearing. So if Abbey intended to try to get the claim stayed or were going to settle before the hearing, we could avoid unnecessary expense. Abbey refused to say what they were going to do.

So, Bob travelled on 15 November to Birkenhead and attended the court on 16 November with the claimant. In the foyer, a young barrister (is this a sign of age when all barristers look so young?) approached us and said he was there to represent Abbey. He told us that, "of course, the case will be stayed". When I asked why Abbey refused to tell us two days before what their position was, he said that he knew nothing about that – which was almost certainly true, because the banks traditionally never brief their barristers about the cases before sending them into battle.

In the court room, Bob said that he wanted to make two submissions, 1) for a stay not to be made because the test case was not relevant to this claim, 2) if the stay was imposed, he wanted an order for costs because of Abbey's unreasonable behaviour in not telling the claimant what they were doing.

The judge did not want to hear any arguments about why the test case was not relevant. She intended to follow all the other cases and impose a stay. She said that it was unusual to award costs in a small claims case, but that she had the power to do so if she felt that one party had acted unreasonably.

The Abbey barrister tried to make out that Abbey had told the defendant that they would ask for a stay. The judge pointed out that this was a letter sent 3 weeks before the case was allocated for a full hearing. After consideration, she said that she would award costs "because of the unreasonable behaviour of the defendant." She asked what sum we had in mind and we asked for my expenses in getting to Birkenhead from Cornwall – train plus hotel but no money for my time – 200. This was given.

So, it was not the result that we would have liked, but Abbey were made to look fools and we live to fight another day. The thought of the barrister having to report back to Abbey that they had 14 days to pay 200 to the claimant sustained me through the 7 hour journey back to Cornwall.

Published and promoted by Bob Egerton, TR2 4RS