A SURVEY of leading banks reveals that the top rate for one year deposits under $100,000 is about six per cent - one third less than the rate of inflation. The Government's decision last week to halt further deregulation in interest rates means the chance of consumers getting a fair deal from the banks appears further away than ever. In quashing an attempt by the Consumer Council to free up fixed-term deposit rates of less than one week's duration, the Government has eased pressure on the banks to increase competition. The survey of major retail banks in the territory shows the best returns consumers can get for fixed-term deposits are easily outpaced by 9.1 per cent inflation. The best return on sums of less than $100,000 invested for 12 months is 6.1 per cent from Citibank, with the lowest at 5.28 per cent on offer from Hongkong Bank. Citibank also offers the best return over six months at 5.85 per cent with Hongkong Bank again coming last at 5.09 per cent. For one-week accounts, the best rate is 5.68 per cent from Bank of East Asia and while Bank of America and Hongkong Bank offer the worst at 4.75 per cent. Savings account rates offer even lower returns. These are anchored at 4.25 per cent for all the banks surveyed - less than half the rate of inflation. Current account deposits with a chequebook offer no interest at all. The Consumer Council said that if the Government had kept pushing interest rate deregulation along this would have forced banks to offer their customers more competitive rates. Consumer Council chairman Edward Chen said the decision to halt the process meant the chance for any further deregulation was remote if not impossible. He said: 'We are very, very disappointed at the decision.' In the banks' defence, Hongkong Bank executive director Paul Selway-Swift said customers in Hong Kong actually got a good deal. Mr Selway-Swift said: 'There are very few charges levied on the consumer and they get a fantastic service. Our margins are certainly not extortionate, and that is one of the words being thrown around.' But Hong Kong banks do operate with a profitable margin between deposit rates and lending rates. Depending on the individual circumstances, consumers seeking a personal loan for $100,000 can easily find themselves saddled with a rate nearing 20 per cent. Offshore banks and building societies offer better savings rates but the deposit required is bigger. For example, the Woolwich Guernsey's instant access account is offering 6.5 per cent for deposits of between $121,000 and about $480,000. Bristol & West Guernsey is offering 6.05 per cent on its 90-day account for a minimum deposit of about $74,000.