The poorest, the first victims of bank charges

It is an overwhelming finding for banks that “60 Million consumers” stands out.

“Consumers with persistent financial difficulty are charged nearly 300 euros per year against 34 euros – for average customers average,” says the association in a study conducted in conjunction with the National Union of family associations (Unaf) and forthcoming November. This study is based on 2016 data. To establish this comparison, “60 Million” is based, on the one hand, on a panel of nearly 400 readers, and, on the other, on more than 200 households with whom Unaf for situations of financial fragility.

In fact, in 2016, one out of every five homes in difficulty was charged more than € 500 for operating costs and banking incidents.

The reason for this, according to the associations, is the explosion of the costs invoiced to the customer as soon as an overdraft is exceeded or a payment is rejected, at the risk of preventing his financial situation from recovering. The problem also comes from the behavior of customers, financially stressed by ever more pressing consumption needs, and often faced with periods of negative bank balance. “The typical victim does not necessarily belong to the poorest people,” assures the association, saying that fees increase proportionally to monthly income when they exceed 2000 euros for customers in difficulty. As an extreme case, the study cites the example of a person earning 2000 per month, from whom his bank – BNP Paribas – took 3000 euros in payment incident expenses in 2016.

Fees at their legal maximum, except at the Postal Bank

In the viewer of 60 million consumers includes the “intervention fee” invoiced by the banks in case of exceeding the overdraft. Because if a payment is requested from the bank, even if the account is not sufficiently stocked, the agency has every interest to authorize the levy: according to the association, “it levies agios close to usury, and especially an intervention fee of € 8 supposed to pay the consultant’s analysis of the situation “. However, 60 million consumers claim that the operation is automated in more than half of the cases, citing as a source the banking branch of the CGT. A minority of councilors are really looking into the incriminated expenditure. In addition, all banks charge the legal maximum of 8 euros for this type of incident, except the postal bank (€ 6.90).

Same thing for checks or withdrawals: an NSF check is charged 30 € below an order of 50 €, and 50 € beyond. The association, however, gives a good overall point to the Postal Bank for lower fees than those charged across the sector.

There is, however, a “fragile customer” offering, capping the fees

Contacted by Le Figaro, the French Banking Federation (FBF) stresses that banks have put in place legal devices supposed to relieve the most fragile holders. When the bank finds repeated incidents, it must inform the account holder and offer to subscribe to a specific offer, which allows him to better control his budget. This offer, known as “fragile client” offers alerts by SMS, cards with systematic authorization, etc. It is charged three euros per month, but offers caps on bank charges, and is often coupled with the disappearance of the checkbook and certain means of payment too risky.

According to the FBF, about three million letters alerting of repeated incidents and proposing the “fragile customer” offer were sent in 2016, but only 10% of the concerned holders subscribed the offer. The Federation further emphasizes that guides and structures exist to try to change the habits of some, such as budget advice points, available in the bank.

A lucrative business for retail banks, but deteriorating the customer relationship

According to the association 60 Million consumers, all costs related to operating incidents remains extremely lucrative for retail banks and would contribute 30% to 35% of turnover, a contribution of 6.5 billion euros. The margin would be enormous and the net result of this activity would be 4.9 billion euros. An amount that the Banking Federation says “do not understand”, 60 million consumers have not yet made public its method of calculation.

In most cases, customers consider these fees to be largely arbitrary, especially since the bank has control of the account and does not specifically provide information when it is due. As a result, verbal and even physical violence is becoming more prevalent in the agencies, as clients have no one but turnkeys to address their distress.