Banks to face undercover investment probes

The German government is planning to use undercover investigators to probe the quality of banks’ investment services.

Banks to face undercover investment probes
Photo: DPA

Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner told business daily Handelsblatt on Monday that reforms to German financial supervision needed to be accompanied by measures offering bank customers greater protection from poor investment advice.

“In the future, the government will have undercover investigators and won’t simply check the overall conditions,” Aigner told the paper.

She said the government investigators would not aim to supplant consumer watchdog Stiftung Warentest, but rather would attempt to bolster the credibility of such independent bank rankings.

“There’s the problem that informants cannot be named, which frequently allows the banks to question the results,” Aigner said.

Stiftung Warentest last summer panned the country’s banks for the quality of investment advice they offered customers.

Just months after new regulations were put into place to improve the information made available by German banks, the consumer watchdog went to 21 different financial institutions for a total of 146 consultations.

Six banks received “deficient” marks, while 12 were considered “adequate,” and only three were “satisfactory.” Not a single institution was given the top “good” grade.

“Laws can only help when someone ensures that they are being implemented,” said Aigner. “We will expand the ability to make checks for the good of consumers.”

The Local/mry

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Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.