Many savings banks and banks arbitrarily cut interest rates

In several cases, consumer advocates have found non-transparent clauses in savings contracts from banks that have deprived savers of interest of more than 89,000 euros. That is also of interest to the Bafin.

Dhe market interest rates, which have fallen sharply over several years, lead to a dispute between savers and their banks. The consumer advice center Baden-Württemberg reported in a document published on Thursday that more and more consumers can no longer understand the calculation of the interest on their savings contracts. This applies to contracts with variable interest rates, the interest rate of which the bank can change depending on the market situation.

The FAZ had already reported on March 2nd that consumer advice centers in several federal states are taking action against arbitrarily calculated interest rates on long-term savings contracts in order to enforce back payments from banks to savers. Laws and jurisprudence allow banks to adjust interest rates to market levels. However, this requires rules in the savings contracts or in the general terms and conditions that are so clear that customers can check and calculate interest rate changes.

The consumer advice center Baden-Württemberg has therefore checked savings contracts submitted by bank customers and found non-transparent clauses in 43 cases that are intended to contradict the requirements of the Federal Court of Justice. Overall, savers have been withheld interest in the amount of 89,970 euros. On average, that’s 2092 euros per savings contract. The sums of damage differ greatly and range from just 37 euros to 12,820 euros.

31 affected savings banks and Volksbanks

The consumer advice center lists 31 affected savings banks and Volksbanks. From the point of view of the two associations of savings banks and Volksbanks, according to the “Handelsblatt” on Thursday, however, it is an individual case and not a fundamental problem. In old contracts, banks have often promised premiums and bonuses in addition to ongoing interest payments. That should get customers to buy in times of higher interest rates and prevent them from withdrawing their money when competitors offer better terms.

The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bafin) is also interested in the topic. “We have already pointed out the problem of inadmissible interest rate adjustment clauses in savings contracts to the Bafin several times,” said Niels Nauhauser from the consumer advice center Baden-Württemberg of the FAZ. On request, the Bafin informed the FAZ that the problem had not only been due to information from consumer advocates for a long time known, but also due to complaints from consumers directly to the financial supervisory authority.

According to Bafin, the problem of incorrect interest rate adjustments also affects loans with variable interest rates. The authority carried out a survey of the supervised banks back in 2016. The market investigation was intended to clarify whether the institutions are systematically disadvantaging their debtors by only lowering lending rates with a delay. At that time, the authority had written to 50 private and cooperative banks as well as savings banks, 13 of which did not give variable loans to consumers. However, the Bafin found evidence of violations of case law at seven banks and investigated the matter.