A black mark against the black horse

Lloyds Bank faces what could, potentially, turn into an embarrassing and damaging confrontation with freelance photographer Nicholas Rogers.

Not only is Lloyds being sued for alleged over-charging, but following its failure in the Court of Appeal last December to block the action, it now faces libel claims over statements made about Rogers' account.

The case is one which, in respect of the right of Rogers to mount his libel claim outside the statutory three-year limitation period, has already served as an important libel law ruling.

But when the full case gets to court, it is bound to bring the often disputed accuracy of bank interest charges into focus.

And, if the libel claim succeeds, it will encourage others, who feel they have had unfair and inaccurate statements made about them by banks, to claim.

Rogers says that, between 1988 and 1991, Lloyds bounced cheques and refused to make direct debit payments on more than 200 occasions. He says that when he began querying interest charges, Lloyds credited him for £6,134, claiming there had been a computer error, but went on to issue a writ against him claiming £78,646, which, it alleged, was still owed on his business and personal accounts.

When Rogers persisted, the bank dropped a charge for interest and obtained leave to reduce the overall claim by a further £35,706.

Rogers amended his defence and mounted a counter-claim for breach of contract and duty, and libel. And despite claims by the bank that there is no justification for an extension of time for the libel action to be mounted, the courts have now ruled it can continue.

Lord Justice Hobhouse, in the Appeal Court decision over Rogers' right to bring libel proceedings out of time, says: "Rogers may have substantial claims against the bank."