NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) have warned businesses they may have to charge them to accept deposits due to low interest rates, which could particularly impact small and independent hospitality businesses.
They would be the first UK banks to introduce negative interest rates, in effect charging to deposit money.
UK interest rates have been unchanged since the Bank of England cut them to 0.5% in March 2009. However, some economists believe rates could still be cut to zero or lower later this year, potentially forcing customers to pay the bank for holding their money to encourage more borrowing and spending by firms.
Co-owner of North Shields gastropub Staith House, Kimberley Calton, described it as "wrong" and "disgraceful", and said she would consider switching to another bank should negative interest rates be introduced.
The winner of this year's Catey Newcomer Award said: "It's hard enough for businesses to make a profit without potentially being hit with extra fees, especially small businesses, and especially within the hospitality industry because people are already tightening their purse strings. If the price of everything goes up you've then got to charge your customers more for the service that you're providing."
She added: "There's no point in panicking; you just carry on. Plan for it, but don't panic."
James Mackenzie, chef-proprietor of the Pipe and Glass Inn in South Dalton, Yorkshire, said: "Bank charges are a significant cost for businesses anyway. There are such massive costs already associated with business that it seems unfair that these extra costs may come in as well. It's imperative that we try even harder to make sure that when people do come out and are choosing to spend their money with us that they have a great time."
However, Nicholas Dickinson, director of Congham Hall hotel in Grimston, Norfolk, is not concerned, despite being a NatWest customer. He told The Caterer: "Even if it did happen I can't believe that they would apply it to smaller customers. There's enough noise coming out of the Bank of England, Mark Carney and various other people which indicates to me that they don't think negative interest rates will work, so I think it's highly unlikely it will happen and I'm not losing any sleep over it."
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