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MEMO/00/026

Brussels, 23 May 2000

Bankcharges in Europe - Release of New Study

This background document gives a fuller description of the results of the investigation into bank charges by the European Interregional Institute for Consumer Affairs

COMMENTS ON METHOD

The investigation involved the 11 countries which use the euro. In each country, four investigators, each with a bank account and an international payment card, carried out banking operations in the last week of November and the first week of December 1999.

Transfers: Each investigator made eight transfers to two different countries and also received eight transfers. One of the advantages of this method is that there were transfers both from bank A to bank B and the other way round.

Altogether, in other words, there were 4 x 8 x 11 = 352 transfers.

That means that for each country there were 32 transfers to two different countries.

All the transfers were for €100, denominated and carried out in euros. On each occasion the investigator (as the customer ordering the transfer) asked for all charges to be debited from his or her account.

Bank card transactions: The four investigators from each country then went to a neighbouring country and withdrew about €100 in cash, followed by a second withdrawal of about €50, from automatic cash dispensers.

In other words, there were 11 x 4 = 44 withdrawals of €100 and 44 of €50.

Each investigator also made a purchase worth roughly €25 using his or her international payment card. So 44 purchases were made.

Exchanging cash: Once back home, each investigator changed the money obtained from the automatic cash dispensers. The €100 withdrawal was changed at the investigator's own bank and the €50 withdrawal at a bureau de change.

Note: The study does not cover all the possible combinations of euro zone countries. This skews the results, as certain "pairings" might be particularly advantageous or disadvantageous in terms of charges, so the study does not give a full picture of the position of each country vis-à-vis each of the ten others.

The point of the study, in other words, was to take a sample so as to identify both the satisfactory aspects and any malfunctioning in the system.

UNPROCESSED RESULTS

    Transfers

Charges

Issuing country

Country of destinationAverage charges to payer (€)Average charges to payee (€)TOTAL CHARGES
LuxembourgF, D8.150.768.91
NetherlandsF, D8.681.3210.00
AustriaI, NL9.561.0510.61
BelgiumD, IRL13.370.0013.37
GermanyB, FIN13.390.3913.78
FranceNL, B15.361.5216.88
ItalyA, F16.102.1818.28
FinlandIRL, P19.770.3420.11
SpainP, I15.485.0220.50
IrelandFIN, E25.610.3725.98
PortugalE, A25.134.5529.68
Average15.511.5917.10

These figures are arithmetic means. There were wide variations within individual countries: for example, a transfer from France to Belgium cost €5.52 to send from one bank and €28.28 from another. The cheapest transaction cost €1.98 from Luxembourg to France and the dearest €46.76 from Italy to Austria.

Transfer costs in one direction are very different from transfer costs in the other. So, for example, a transfer from Germany to Belgium can cost €16.04, while the same transfer, between the same two banks and on the same day but from Belgium to Germany, costs €7.26. Similarly, transfers from Italy to Austria cost on average 41% more than transfers from Austria to Italy. Transfers from Ireland to Finland cost 43% more than transfers from Finland to Ireland.

Double-charging

Payees were charged fees in 25% of cases, contrary to the express instructions given and in breach of Directive 97/5, which entered into force in August 1999. There were wide variations, however: payees were charged fees on 50% of the payments received in Austria and Spain. Ireland was the only country where no charges were levied on incoming payments, whereas in Spain charges were imposed on transfers from Ireland in four cases out of 16.

There were no charges in the destination countries (Germany and Ireland) on the payments from Belgium, but seven out of the 32 transfers received in Belgium were charged for.

Time taken

The great majority of transfers reached the payee's account in two to four days. 94.8% of transfers reached their payees within the six days stipulated in Directive 97/5.

A more detailed analysis shows that this is not a problem peculiar to certain countries but has more to do with the originating bank.

Failure to carry out instructions

Twelve transfers, including ten involving Portugal, were not credited in full: charges were levied by an intermediary.

Two transfers had not reached their payees after five months.

Bank card transactions

Charges on the €100 withdrawals ranged from 1.74% in Ireland to 5.89% in Portugal. The average was 3.84%. Charges on the €50 withdrawals ranged from 3.48% in Ireland to 8.89% in Italy, with an average of 6.14%.

Commission on the bank card payments ranged from 0.00% to 0.79%.

Money changing

The cost of exchanging actual banknotes (to a value of €100) in the banks was roughly 3.3%. In the bureaux de change, for banknotes worth €50, the figure was 7.07%.

Complaints and settlement of disputes

(under Article 10 of Directive 97/5 on cross-border transfers)

Belgium

  

Association Belge des Banques (ABB) Tel. +32.2.507.68.11

Rue Ravenstein, 36, bte 5 Fax +32.2.507.69.79

B - 1000 Bruxelles

Médiateur auprès de la Poste Tel. +32.2.204.81.00 (FR)

Dienst Ombudsman De Post Tel. +32.2.204.82.00 (NL)

W.T.C. Tour II Tel. +32.2.204.83.00 (DE)

Chaussée d'Anvers/Antwerpsesteenweg 59 Fax +32.2.204.84.00

B - 1000 Bruxelles/Brussel 

Denmark

 

Pengeinstitutankenævnet Tel. +45.35.43.63.33

Østerbrogade 64, 4 Fax +45.35.43.71.04

DK - 2100 København Ø

Germany

Deutsche Bundesbank  Tel.: +49.69.95.66.40.50

Schlichtungsstelle  Fax: +49.69.95.66.40.56

Postfach 100602

D - 60006 Frankfurt am Main

Greece

  

Hellenic Banking Ombudsman Tel. +30.1.33.76.700

12-14 Karagiorgi Servias Street Fax +30.1.32.38.821

GR - 105 52 Athens e-mail: contact@bank-omb.gr

Spain

  

Servicios Jurídicos Tel. +34.91.338.57.58

Banco de España Fax +34.91.338.65.22

Alcalá, 50

E - 28014 Madrid

France

Normally Médiateurs set up by individual banks

if there is none, complaints go to:

Association Francaise des Banques Tel: +33.1.48.00.52.52,

18 rue La Fayette Fax: +33.1.42.46.76.40

F - 75009 Paris

Ireland

The Ombudsman for the Credit Institutions Tel. +353.1.478.37.55

8 Adelaide Court Fax +353.1.478.01.57

IRL - Dublin 8

Italy

Ombudsman Bancario Tel. +39.06.67.67.353

Via delle Botteghe Oscure 46 Fax +39.06.67.67.400

I - 00186 Roma e-mail: abi@abi.it

Luxembourg

Commission de Surveillance du Secteur

Financier (CSSF) Tel. +352.26.251.226

110, Route d'Arlon Fax +352.26.251.603

L - 2991 Luxembourg e-mail: banques@cssf.lu

Netherlands

  

Stichting Geschillencommissie  Tel. +31.70.310.53.10

voor Consumentenzaken Fax +31.70.365.88.14

Surimanestraat 24

NL - 2585 GJ 's Gravenhage

Austria

Arbeitskreis "Ombudsstellen der

österreichischen Kreditwirtschaft" Tel. +43.1.501.05.31.32

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich Fax. +43.1.501.05.272

Wiedner Haupstrase 63 e-mail:

A - 1045 Wien BSBV@WKOESK.WK.OR.AT

 

Portugal

Centro de Arbitragem de Conflitos  Tel. +351.1.888.36.23

de Consumo  Fax +351.1.888.37.67

Mercado Chão de Loureiro (1st floor)

Largo do Chão do Loureiro  e-mail : lis-arbitragem@ip.pt

P - 1100 Lisboa

Finland

Consumer Complaint Board Tel. +358.9.7726.7900

Box 306   Fax +358.9.753.4880

Kaikukatu 3

FIN - 00531 Helsinki

Sweden

   

The National Board for Consumer

Complaint  Tel. +46.8.783.17.00

P.O. Box 174 Fax +46.8.783.17.01

S - 101 23 Stockholm   e-mail:

       staffan.lind@arn.se

United Kingdom

The Banking Ombudsman Tel. +44.20 7964 0692

South Quay Plaza Fax +44 20 7964 0693

183, Marsh Wall e-mail:

UK - London E14 9SR david.thomas@obo.org.uk

From early 2001 (exact date not yet confirmed)

Financial Ombudsman Service  Tel. +44.207.942.0942

South Quay Plaza Fax +44.207.942.0943

183, Marsh Wall

UK - London E14 9SR

EFTA Countries

Iceland

Complaints Committee 

c/o Bankers' Association of Iceland

Austurstraeti 5

IS - 101 Reykjavik

Norway

The Norwegian Banking Complaints Board  Tel. +47.22.20.30.14

Universitetsgaten 8  Fax +47.22.20.31.90

Post Box 6855, St. Olavs Plass  e-mail:

N - 0130 Oslo per.fiskerud@bankklagenemnda.no

ANNEX

    1.4 Total cost, by country of transfer origin

      Figure B.1.4.a: Average total cost of a transfer, by country of transfer origin (average cost to originator + average cost to beneficiary)

Country of origin

Average cost to originator (€)Average cost to beneficiary (€)TOTAL COST
Luxembourg8.15 0.76 8.91
Netherlands8.68 1.32 10.00
Austria9.56 1.05 10.61
Belgium13.37 0.00 13.37
Germany13.39 0.39 13.78
France15.36 1.52 16.88
Italy16.10 2.18 18.28
Finland19.77 0.34 20.11
Spain15.48 5.02 20.50
Ireland25.61 0.37 25.98
Portugal25.13 4.55 29.68
Average15.51 1.59 17.10

    Figure B.1.4.b: Average total cost of a transfer, by country of origin (average cost to originator + average cost to beneficiary)

    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Figure B.2.1.b: Charges, by card-issuing country (chart)

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Figure B.2.2.1.d:  Cash dispenser withdrawals approximate amount € 100Charge, by card-issuing country

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

Figure B.2.2.2.d: Cash dispenser withdrawals approximate amount € 100Charge, by country in which the withdrawal is made

[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

    Figure B.3.1.b: Average cost of exchanging banknotes in a bank, by country (chart)

    [Graphic in PDF & Word format]


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