Lloyds Bank has been accused of religious discrimination after offering free overdraft accounts to Muslims.
The bank sent customers a booklet this month explaining new charges.
While many will have to pay up to £80 a month if they go into the red, Muslims were told they would escape the charges. The document said: “We are removing the monthly overdraft management fee of £6 from our Islamic Account, Islamic Student Account and Islamic Graduate Account. So, if you use an unplanned overdraft on these accounts, there won’t be any charges.”
One customer, Anita Milton, a nurse of New Eltham, south London, said: “I can’t believe that they’re thinking of offering one account for Muslims and making everyone else pay for the same service. Do I have to change my religion to get the best deal?”
Barclays, Co-op Bank and RBS said they do not offer alternative bank accounts to Muslim customers.
James Daley, of Fairer Finance, a consumer group, said: “The best thing would be for everyone to switch to the Islamic account to avoid these charges. But if everyone does that I doubt it will be financially viable for Lloyds.”
The Islamic account was set up by the High Street bank to attract Muslim customers by allowing them to keep faithful to their religion.
A Lloyds spokesman said Islamic accounts were intended for customers who cannot receive or pay interest under sharia, but were available to anyone, regardless of their faith.
“Our focus has always been on meeting the needs of UK businesses and personal customers. We offer a range of retail, business and investment products to meet the needs of our customers, available through all of our branches across the UK. The Islamic current account is for customers who cannot receive credit or debit interest due to their religious beliefs. All of our Islamic accounts comply with Islamic law and are available to anyone regardless of background or faith.
“These accounts are structured differently to our traditional accounts and do not offer credit interest or other features that are available on our other products. A comparison with the overdraft charging structure on other accounts is meaningless.”