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Brokers make you broker

Pity small investors. After three years of being kicked around by the markets, now they're being kicked by the people who encouraged them to have a punt in the first place.

TDWaterhouse is introducing an account inactivity fee for those in the UK who've been so badly burnt that they no longer want to trade. If you don't make a trade during a quarter, you'll pay nearly £12 for the privilege of keeping your account. However, those lucky enough to have £5,000 sitting around doing nothing in their accounts are exempted.

Bizarrely, TDWaterhouse says this is the fairest thing it could do. "We provide a lot of services and we felt this was the most equitable way to charge for them," says Angus Rigsby, senior vice-president. Rigsby points out that other brokers also charge their customers, through management fees or in other ways.

It's a far cry from the heady days of the late 1990s when the bull run enticed millions of new retail investors into the markets. Brokers back then were offering all sorts of fee-free deals to new accounts in the drive to win business. Now they're having to tighten their belts, and customers are getting squeezed too.

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