Customers will be charged more for several types of services More banks, including Hang Seng Bank and Citibank, announced increased fees for small customers yesterday, a day after the city's biggest bank, HSBC, said it would raise charges for certain services. The consumer watchdog and grass-roots concern groups warned that although these charges were business decisions, banks should care for less-privileged customers. From April, the city's second-largest bank, Hang Seng, will charge customers of its Integrated Account Services whose balances are less that $10,000 a fee of $60 per month. The present charge is $10 to $20 a month. The bank said 8 per cent of the service's customers would be required to pay more, half of them would continue to be exempted and 30 per cent would pay less as their basic and regular account plans would be merged into a single one under the new scheme. Raymond Or Ching-fai, chief executive of the bank, blamed increased operating costs for the rise. He said the increase only brought its fees in line with other banks. Citibank meanwhile announced customers would be charged $30, instead of the present $20, if they chose to settle their credit card payments in cash. For credit card holders of the Bank of East Asia, the minimum late-payment charge will be increased by $30 to $130 from April. The fee for exceeding a credit limit will be increased by $20 to $150. Charges for non-Hong-Kong-dollar transactions made outside the city will also be increased. On Wednesday, HSBC said it would increase charges on its Premier accounts from this month and fees for telegraphic transfer instructions. Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, said the increases were business decisions brought about by fierce competition in the banking market. 'Operation costs of banks are increasing while the interest rate difference between saving and lending is narrowing; of course banks would therefore try to find other ways to make money,' he said. He noted the monetary watchdog had no right to interfere and that customers had to make wise choices in a free market. A spokesman for the Consumer Council said banks should be more responsible to the public. 'While they can make their business decisions, they should take care of the needs of small customers,' he said. Ng Wai-tung, of the Society for Community Organisation, said banks discriminated against the poor. 'While rich customers do not have to line up for services and do not have to pay charges, poor customers have to stand in the queues for a long time and pay heavy fees,' he said. 'The government keeps saying Hong Kong is a fair society. Is it really the case while poor people are being punished by banks and big companies all the time?'