Are lenders treating customers in arrears fairly?

"Bradford & Bingley has said it will be spending more time supporting customers in arrears which is to be applauded, but how about it puts its money where its mouth is and cut these unfair fees.

"Of all the charges, the extra fee, sometimes up to £100, for debt counselling seems most unfair. For providers to take advantage of their most vulnerable customers who have approached them for help to get a grip on their finances is unacceptable.

"Borrowers in the unfortunate situation of going into arrears can expect to face some punitive and unjust charges. We would question if these lenders are treating customers fairly, given the inconsistency of the fees and charges. Under the Mortgage Conduct of Business rules, regulated by the Financial Services Authority, all cases of financial hardship must be treated sympathetically.

"Lenders aren't charities, but no one wins if they automatically burden customers with more fees and debt. I'm sure customers in arrears are unaware that some lenders charge for every call they make and letter they send.

"The biggest outrage is that so many lenders charge for, or outsource, debt counselling, yet it is free with the Citizens Advice Bureau. Now is not the time to profit from the most vulnerable borrowers.