What nice spinning the Australian Bankers’ Association is capable of: faced with Reserve Bank numbers showing their dubious penalty fee gouge is going through the roof, the ABA is saying banks will make a greater effort to inform customers about the fees they face.

As we’ve plagiarised from a British consumer campaigner before, telling someone you’re going to punch them in the head doesn’t make it all right to go ahead and whack them.

The annual RBA report on bank fees is a curious document. The numbers in it make for quick and easy headlines – bank fees broke the $4 billion barrier for the first time last year, the average penalty fee for late payment on a credit card rose from $29 to $31, fees paid by households over the past five years have grown by 12% per annum on average while fee income from business customers has increased at half that rate.

But the tone of RBA commentary is very relaxed. The fee binge is downplayed by our central bank noting the fee rise as a proportion of total assets (ie. bank business) is down and it credits most of the fee gains to people using more bank products.

The RBA takes credit for keeping down fee rises for businesses thanks to its intervention on interchange charges – but like the rest of our watchpuppy community, it washes its hands of penalty fees on individuals.

The bottom line remains that there is good opinion that bank penalty fees are legally unenforceable. They are certainly morally objectionable. That’s been recognised by the UK Office of Fair Trade, but it’s an issue that falls between the cracks of APRA, ASIC, the ACCC and the RBA. Frankly, Scarlett, none of them give a damn.

So what to do? Keep demanding refunds of the penalties and buy shares in the major banks – if you can’t reform them, grab a slice of their profiteering.