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Why German banks are threatening customers with account closures

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
Why German banks are threatening customers with account closures
A biro lies on the first page of Postbank's General Terms and Conditions. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

Numerous German banks, including the Sparkasse, are threatening customers with account closures if they do not explicitly consent to increased charges. We look at what's going on.

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In April 2021, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled that credit institutions in Germany must obtain the consent of their customers for changes to General Terms and Conditions. This meant that many banks had to retroactively request consent for the fees they had been charging and enabled customers to reclaim fees that had been charged without their explicit consent.

READ ALSO: Why a German court decision means you could be entitled to compensation from your bank

However, not only have some financial institutions refused to reimburse unjustly charged fees, some banks have been threatening to terminate customers' checking accounts if they don't actively agree to changes in the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) and the associated fee increases.

In the first half of the year, the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) received 40 complaints related to the BGH decision, mainly related to threatened or executed account terminations due to customers not actively consenting to changes in the GTC.

One recent example is the Mittelbrandenburgische Sparkasse (MBS): around 8,600 customers received termination letters because they did not agree to the changes in the GTC. 

The bank's CEO Andreas Schulz told rbb24 Inforadio: "This is a legal necessity because we require a secure legal relationship with our customers, and for that, we need the active consent of customers to the General Terms and Conditions".

According to the letters sent by the bank, the terminations will take effect on October 23rd, 2023 unless the customers take action. However, customers have until November 23rd to provide their consent through active use of their personal checking accounts, by, for example, withdrawing cash or setting up or modifying standing orders.

READ ALSO: Why German banks are getting more customer complaints than ever

As many savings banks are planning to increase their fees from August 1st, they are now urging customers to consent to the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) and those who do not comply with this request may face account termination.

Fees are expected to rise in Bavaria, Berlin, Lower Saxony, Eastern Saxony, and Brandenburg and district savings banks in Baden-Württemberg may also be affected.

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Recently the Stadtsparkasse München (Munich City Savings Bank) altered models for personal checking accounts, while Sparkasse Bielefeld increased its fees for checking accounts by 38 percent in July. The Berliner Sparkasse also raised account maintenance fees, for which customers had to provide explicit consent.

Those who do not respond to the letter will usually receive a reminder from the bank. An excerpt from a reminder letter from Kreissparkasse Heidenheim, obtained by new site Focus.de stated that there will be "changes and updates to the price and service schedule as well as some conditions" at the bank as of August 1st.

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