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27 November 2003

BEUC survey on charges for cross-border payment

European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) awarded prizes for “innovative and high” cross-border charges. Winner of the prize for the worst cross-border transfer is Finland – a Finn wanting to make a 40 € transfer to Belgium from the Nordea bank had to pay 28.59 €, equivalent of 71.5% of the sent amount.

BEUC asked their member organisations to make a payment of 40 euros from a bank account in their country to a bank account in Brussels. The main conclusions of this - unrepresentative – survey are:

  • The Regulation should have been fully implemented since July 2003, yet in six countries (Belgium, Finland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands and Spain - one bank) it is not the case. French banks have even introduced innovative new fees: advice fee and typing fee.

  • In six countries and with some fifty banks, member organisations noticed an increase in national charges for domestic payments, as well as for withdrawals since Autumn 2002. Increases ranging from 14 to 163% were reported in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg. The main bank in Belgium, Fortis, announced on 1 November that withdrawals at its ATMs would no longer be free as from 1 January 2004.

  • In eight countries out of eleven, member organisations have reported various problems linked to the implementation of the Regulation, such as lack of transparency, non-disclosure of important information or misleading advice.

    According to Jim Murray, BEUC director: “Once again, banks are unable to deliver. The forthcoming Commission Communication on a Single Payment Area should take due account of this failure”.

    Other prizes for the worst cases:
    Prize for the worst cross-border cash withdrawal:
    Italy – Two banks in particular win the prize for the biggest difference between a withdrawal abroad (in the EU) and a national withdrawal: the Banca Popolare di Milano and the Intesa. If an Italian has a bank account at the Intesa and withdraws money at an ATM in Milan, he pays 2 €. If he withdraws the same amount in Madrid, he will pay 8 € for charges, which amounts to four times the cost of the same transaction at domestic level.

    Prize for the worst price increase for national payments:
    Greece – Before the implementation of the Regulation, a national payment (outside the network) in the Greek bank Eurobank cost 8 €. Now, the same payment costs 21 € (i.e. an increase of 163%!).

    Prize for the worst information (draw)
    : Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands: in a certain number of banks, clients do not have the choice whether to share payment charges with the beneficiary or to pay all charges: the bank obliges the consumer to choose the first option, which is in breach of the Regulation. This forces both parties to pay charges, despite the fact that many banks are incapable of telling the consumer how much the beneficiary will have to pay for these charges.

    Spain: In a Madrid outlet of the BBVA, an employee informed a client that it would cost him 24 € to make a bank transfer of 20 € to Austria! When mention was made of the Regulation, the employee changed his mind.

    Prize for the worst technical problem:
    The Netherlands – An attempt to make a transfer through the Postbank to Belgium failed because the online banking system could not be used: the space in which to introduce the account number was too small…

    The papers can be downloaded from the BEUC website

    © BEUC

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