Monday, February 12, 2007

It's the grey areas where we get tested.

Reading this article about banks closing accounts for customers that reclaim incorrect bank charges made me thing that it should be illegal. Read here. Of course that goes against all my principles. My view is that as a private company they can do what they want and the market can decide.

Unfortunately this is one of those cases where it is not as easy as that. If I was to lose my bank account and couldn't get another one for some reason how would I get my wages? As far as I know the company I work for doesn't deal in cash and I would have a hell of a job paying all my bills by queuing at the post office, while there are still some anyway. It is still possible but it's not easy. The bulk of us have bank accounts and direct debits set up and companies can penalise those that want to deal with cash or cheques by charging them more for that privilege or refusing to do business. Effectively making it difficult for anyone not rich to own a house or live in one as you can't get loans, some suppliers won't deal with you without meters or prepayment cards. Their arguments, and they make sense, is that it is cheaper managing the accounts with direct debit and they get paid when the want. Of course any errors, that you detect, get paid back but they have the benefit of peoples cash for a few days. I suspect that is a better reason for them.

So banks can make enough to post massive profits and rip people off on the understanding that we need their services and we have no real alternative so isn't not worth complaining. There are not too many banks and they all seem to have the same basic rules and regulations. A cartel by any other name. It seems that no sooner does one set up some charges than they all start. Something wrong there.

So what do we do? Make rules to protect people and force banks to keep people on as customers or let them charge what they want on the assumption that in a free society they will all work out at about the same levels that we can live with or something in between. And it's more than banks as well. Look at the hoops you have to jump through to get a doctor, a phone and if you can find one a dentist just for starters.

Life is not black and white. There are many shades of grey and it's these grey areas where we really get tested. As it seems that we have resolved most of the real black and white issues now and our legislators seem to be working solely in the grey areas. Interesting times are afoot and our government is not known for it's light touch unless it's compared to Stalin. I know that our government would like more of this as it forces people on to databases and keeps them traceable and gets them used to intrusive forms.

I believe in minimum legislation on these things and I think that something needs to be done but what can be done and still allow companies to run their own businesses? When I take over the universe I'm going to be looking for different viewpoints on these issues.


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