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Halifax accused of sneaking in new fees; BANKING.

Byline: By Nicky Burridge Special correspondent

Britain's biggest mortgage lender Halifax was yesterday accused of "sneaking in" new fees following the introduction of a pounds 245 upfront charge.

The Mortgage Account Fee will have to be paid by all new mortgage customers, even those who opt to pay a higher interest rate to avoid paying arrangement fees.

The group said the new charge was being introduced to replace its previous Mortgage Exit Administration Fee, which it scrapped in July last year following pressure from City watchdog the Financial Services Authority on lenders over exit charges.

It also replaces a range of fees for additional services such as duplicate mortgage statements and changes to the payment type of a mortgage.

But the new fee is higher than the old pounds 175 Mortgage Exit Administration Fee, and will leave consumers who did not use any of the additional services facing a higher charge.

Yesterday's change means that people taking out some of the group's best mortgage rates will have to pay upfront fees of pounds 1,244, at a time when mortgage rates are also rising.

The move was strongly criticised by Louise Cuming, head of mortgages at moneysupermarket.com, who urged Halifax to scrap the new charge.

She said: "HBOS has waited until the exit fees debate has died down before sneaking in a more expensive charge.

"When exit fees were under the microscope after last year's FSA investigation, HBOS was hailed for scrapping the pounds 175 charge.

"Disappointingly it has now decided to introduce a fee of pounds 245 just when borrowers are feeling the pain of increasing rates and the rising cost of living."

She added: "I urge HBOS to scrap this decision."
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 27, 2008
Words:284
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