The banks are turning the charge screw

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Banks are turning the charge screw

Many institutes will increase the prices for current accounts in the coming year – or have already done so. At the same time, some are defending themselves against possible repayment claims by customers from the BGH ruling from April.

Every second German bank or savings bank is currently increasing its fees, has already done so or has at least announced this plan. Around 41 percent of all banking houses are even considering negative interest rates or have already introduced them. This is the result of the study “Industry Compass Banking 2021” by the management consulting firm Sopra Steria, which surveyed 100 decision-makers.

It was to be expected that the development that had already occurred would continue – on the one hand because of the ruling by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) from April, which declared fee increases for current accounts without the customer’s consent from the past to be ineffective (Ref .: XI ZR426 / 20); on the other hand because of the lack of income opportunities in the interest business. The extent of price increases, however, is very different and not always transparent: “Some banks and savings banks do nothing, others work with hidden price increases in the new terms and conditions, which customers should agree to. Still others want customers to have their claims waived directly with regard to reclaiming fees that have been paid too much. Customers should then retrospectively agree to the old prices, ”says David Riechmann, specialist lawyer for banking and capital market law in the service of the consumer advice center in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Price increases can also turn out to be juicy. Sparkasse Krefeld, for example, is raising its prices for current accounts in April by 26 to 35 percent, depending on the account model. For a flat giro account, which previously costs seven euros per month for customers, 9.50 euros will be due in the future. The Sparkasse explains that it has not increased prices since the beginning of 2017. Even after the price adjustment, one is “absolutely competitive” with a view to the competitors in the business area with a “comparable business model”. At Postbank, you only pay nothing if a monthly cashless cash receipt of 3000 euros is guaranteed, otherwise in several stages up to 10.90 euros (the model is made attractive with the elimination of the annual credit card fee). At Commerzbank, the classic current account for new contracts has cost 6.90 euros since April last year, as does the Deutsche Bank active DB account. Much is more or less well above the five euros per month (60 euros per year) that Stiftung Warentest considers appropriate.

Other institutes are now working with graduated account models: Sparkasse Köln-Bonn, for example, offers the Privat Komfort current account free of charge – but only for customers up to 24. Those who are 25 or 26 pay EUR 4.50 from the age of 27 double the amount is due. Stadtsparkasse Mönchengladbach also works with comparable account models. What is striking: The number of those who offer pure online accounts is falling.

Of course, fee increases only work if the customer agrees. If she doesn’t do that, she threatens the end of business relationships. On the other hand, some could possibly still live quite well with the fee increases, were it not for the annoying issue with the BGH ruling from April. Some could ask for money back that their institute may have wrongly asked of them. However, some savings banks in particular do not see themselves as having an obligation and are referring to a ruling by the BGH in 2016 on the “three-year solution for energy supply contracts”. Tenor: The customer can no longer defend himself against price increases from gas and electricity suppliers if he has paid the higher prices without complaint over three years.

Whether they have to accept the attitude of the respective money house is another question. From the point of view of experts, the rules for electricity and gas contracts cannot simply be transferred to current accounts, because the BGH wanted to take into account the difficult situation for energy suppliers due to strongly fluctuating world market prices for gas, oil and electricity. It is said that this argument cannot be an argument for the banks. The institutes see it differently, and this is how the litigation is programmed. In two cases it is already certain that the court will continue. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations has filed a model declaratory action against the Berliner Sparkasse and Sparkasse Köln-Bonn.

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