Whistleblower wins 13-year battle with HSBC

A lone whistleblower has won a 13-year battle with HSBC and the UK's chief financial watchdog, which had resulted in a multimillion-pound compensation payout to thousands of people.

According to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), HSBC had voluntarily agreed to set up a £4 million compensation scheme for people who had lost out financially as a result of having to pay ''unreasonable'' debt collection charges imposed by two subsidiaries of the bank.

The money would be shared among 6,700 people who held credit cards with HFC Bank and John Lewis Financial Services, both of which were now part of HSBC. The announcement comes as a victory for 59-year-old Nicholas Wilson, who had devoted years to pursuing the issue. According to Wilson, in 2003 he told HFC that the practice was ''illegal''. As a result of the ongoing campaign he had subsequently ''lost everything''.  Wilson was unemployed and last month, faced repossession proceedings.

Wilson told The Guardian he was delighted that it had finally been acknowledged that ''there was some wrongdoing'', adding, however, ''the figures they were talking about were derisory.'' He had maintained all along that hundreds of thousands of people had been overcharged, though this had consistently been rejected by HSBC and the authorities.

According to the Financial Conduct Authority, the bank had voluntarily agreed to set up a redress scheme for customers who were left out of pocket after paying unreasonable debt collection charges levied by HFC Bank Ltd and John Lewis Financial Services Limited.

According to the regulator, between 2003 and 2009, customers of HFC and JLFS who fell into arrears were referred to the firms' nominated solicitors.

However, on referral, the solicitors added 16.4 per cent of the balance to the account as a 'debt collection charge'.