"The UK's biggest banks have lost a test case about overdraft charges.
A judge has decided that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) can apply consumer contract regulations to decide if bank overdraft charges are fair or not.
Since the beginning of 2006 hundreds of thousands of bank customers have tried to reclaim their charges on the grounds that they were too high and unfair.
But more hearings are expected which may delay the cases of claimants, who should not expect an automatic pay-out.
Mr Justice Andrew Smith said: "This does not necessarily mean they [the charges] are unfair."
But the judge also decided against the OFT, saying that the banks' terms and conditions were plain and intelligible.
Both the banks and the courts were deluged with claims which they were finding very difficult to deal with.
But since both sides agreed to stage the test case, tens of thousands of claims have been put on hold in either the county courts or with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
The BBC has estimated that last year the banks refunded about £784m to nearly 378,000 customers.
Paul Tilley, a law student from Southampton, was one of those customers.
He says he won back £4,000 including interest after his bank imposed charges for exceeding his overdraft limit.
He has an outstanding claim with another bank and hopes the test case will force banks to change their behaviour.
"Looking at my statements from the time, they were taking up to £180 a month off me in charges, it then left me short for paying my bills."
"As a result my payments bounced, I then went over my overdraft again."
"It was a snowballing situation."
The OFT first agreed last July, with seven banks and the Nationwide building society, to stage the test case to decide if it had the power under consumer contract regulations to regulate overdraft charges.
The issue of the OFT's jurisdiction was then thrashed out during 14 days of complicated High Court hearings in January and February.
Further High Court hearings are now expected to decide the exact level of charges, leading to further delays for hundreds of thousands of claimants.
At stake is not only the ability of aggrieved customers to reclaim their charges but also the ability of the banks to generate an estimated £3.5bn a year in income from levying them.
If the banks eventually suffer a complete defeat on the issue, then it has been widely predicted that they will try to recoup their losses by abandoning the long standing policy of so-called "free banking" for customers in credit.
Instead, monthly or annual charges could be introduced as standard for running an ordinary current account. "