Up to 200,000 British investors could be in for a share of £3 billion from a number of Swiss banks but will lose their chance if they don’t make a claim before the end of the year.
The cash is owed by Swiss financial institutions like UBS and Credit Suisse to anyone who invested money through them and did not receive the commission fees paid on the deal.
A little known ruling from 2012 said the common practice of taking ‘retrocessions’ was illegal and the money should be repaid.
But like the mis-selling of PPI in Britain, the commissions were often added without the customer’s knowledge, so many potential claimants have no idea they have money owing to them.
Investors used major Swiss banking institutions to invest their cash through the private banking system. As they did so, the banks were paid commission on the deals for bringing in new business and it became common practice for them to keep the money and not pass it back to the investor.
In 2012 Swiss courts ruled that unless the fees were charged to the clients with explicit authorisation banks and asset managers were forbidden from keeping them. It should be paid back, plus 5% interest.
But crucially they only had to hand back the money if the client asked for it and as many were unaware they had been charged they didn’t claim.
Finance journalist Tracey Boles said: “The commission fees — or “retrocessions” — were a lucrative component of Swiss investment practice for many years.
“But they were usually added without clients’ informed consent by banks including Credit Suisse and UBS.”
However, in another parallel with PPI. there is a claims deadline.
Anyone who thinks they may have been charged the fees unknowingly in 2009 must make their claim before the end of 2019.
Swiss lawyer Hubert Schwaerzler said: “Just like the PPI scandal, many investors have no idea they were fleeced by the people they trusted with their money.
Now it’s time to claw back the thousands of pounds they took.”
The Swiss National Bank says its country’s financial institutions hold around £320 billion of UK clients’ money.
Herr Schwaerzler’s firm has had a 90% success rate is its claims so far.