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Money BGH rebukes banks for basic account

17:30  30 june  2020
17:30  30 june  2020 Source:   de.reuters.com

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The idea sounds good: Everyone, regardless of how poor or rich, is entitled to their own current account, the bank must not reject any customers. The so-called basic account has existed in Germany since 2016. But at Deutsche Bank, account management has previously cost 8.99 euros a month - reason enough for the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) to take action. Consumer advocates still see a need for action after Tuesday's Karlsruhe ruling. ()

Als «Konto für Jedermann» soll das Basiskonto auch Menschen ohne geregeltes Einkommen offenstehen. Einige Banken lassen sich das teuer bezahlen. © Photo: Andrea Warnecke / dpa As an “account for everyone”, the basic account should also be available to people without a regular income. Some banks pay dearly for this.

A basic account - what is that exactly?

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People with no regular income have difficulty opening a normal account. And without an account, it is difficult to find an apartment or a job. The basic account should also be open to social welfare recipients, homeless people or refugees. You can use it to handle all basic banking transactions: deposit and withdraw money, initiate transfers, pay by card. The special thing is that the bank can only reject the application for opening in very few exceptional cases. The customer does not have to have registered a place of residence. It is sufficient to provide a contact address, for example of relatives, friends or an advice center.

Can the bank have the account paid for?

She can. The basic account does not have to be free of charge. The law only says that the fee for the services must be "reasonable". And: "For the assessment of appropriateness, the usual market fees and user behavior must be taken into account." This means that if in doubt, the courts have to decide. Financial supervision Bafin can also instruct banks to cut unreasonably high fees. This has not been going far enough for the consumer advice centers for a long time: They fear that people who are actually entitled to a basic account will simply not be able to afford it in the end.

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How much money do banks charge?

That is very different. However, the Stiftung Warentest found that the bottom line has become more expensive since an initial survey in 2017. As of October 1, 2019, only two of the 124 banks examined offered the basic account free of charge. At the most expensive banks, the customer had to pay more than 200 euros a year for the account and its transactions in the model calculation. The Deutsche Bank, which was now in Karlsruhe, is not an isolated case. Up until now there were extra costs at a monthly price of 8.99 euros if the customer needed the help of an employee - for example, an additional 1.50 euros per transfer.

How do banks justify these prices?

In the process, Deutsche Bank calculated that the account fee corresponded almost exactly to its own costs. According to the description of the money house, the formalities when opening the account and dealing with the special customer group are associated with an above-average amount of effort. In addition, there are higher risks: With the basic account, the employees have to take special care that it is not misused for money laundering or terrorist financing.

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What has the BGH decided now?

Deutsche Bank has to lower the price of its basic account - the clauses unfairly affect disadvantaged customers. Anyone who had hoped for a concrete number from Karlsruhe will be disappointed. The judges only make it clear that banks should not be allowed to incur the additional expense of managing basic accounts by their holders alone. It must therefore be counter-financed across the entire customer business. Deutsche Bank wants to "implement the requirements immediately, of course". The money house left open how this should look and how many accounts are affected.

What does the judgment mean for consumers?

For some banks, the basic account should become cheaper. BGH judgments have a fundamental character. So other financial institutions that have calculated like Deutsche Bank have to revise their prices. If they don't do it voluntarily, in case of doubt it would only help a lawsuit. The Federal Consumer Association, which has won the judgment, therefore calls for the law to be improved. The Green European politician Sven Giegold also says: "The court did not solve the fundamental problem and could not solve it." If Germany does not comply with the EU-wide requirements for the basic account, the EU Commission must initiate infringement proceedings.

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