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Brussels, 20th September 2001

Bank charges: Key findings of new Commission study

See also IP/01/1293

Success rate

  • In March 2001, 1,480 cross-border credit transfers of € 100 were sent using 40 different bank accounts in the 15 EU Member States.

  • 1,473 out of 1,480 (99%) transfers arrived.

  • Of the seven transfers which did not arrive, five had been returned to the sender's account, and two were still missing. Despite the obligation in the Cross-Border Credit Transfers Directive to refund lost transfers within 14 days, the two lost transfers had not been refunded to the customers.

Numbers of Transfers Sent and Received

Sender Country

Transfers sentTransfers arrivedTransfers returnedTransfers missing
Germany1441431 (SV)2
UK1441431 (BE)2

1 One transfer from France and one from Italy arrived as cheques, issued in the receiver country

2 Receiving countries


  • Transfers took an average of 2.97 days. This is a significant reduction from similar studies in 1993 and 1994 studies that found an average of 4.61 days and 4.79 days respectively. Comparable studies(1) in 1999 and 2001 showed average transfer times of 3.41 days and 3.31 days respectively.

  • 95.4% of the transfers arrived within six working days and 99.7% arrived within 15 working days.

  • The longest transfer time was for a transfer from Italy to Portugal (43 days). The longest average transfer times were from Sweden (4.61 days), the UK (4.19 days) and Denmark (4.07 days).

  • The shortest transfers times were from various banks in Germany, Greece, Ireland and Luxembourg to different other Member States (0 days). The shortest average transfer times were from Ireland (1.67 days), Greece (1.82 days) and France (1.99 days).

  • When considering specific timing commitments made by the banks, 89.8% of transfers arrived on time and 98.4% within three days of the time specified by the sender bank.

  • Despite having been asked to do so, none of the banks agreed to pay compensation for late payments, despite the banks' clear obligation under the Cross-Border Credit Transfers Directive (97/5/EC) to pay compensation when a cross-border credit transfer arrives late.

Time for Transfers to Arrive by Sender Country (working days)

Sender Country



  • The average cost of a transfer was € 24.09. This compares to ECU 23.93 and ECU 25.41 in similar studies in 1993 and 1994 respectively. Compared to these results, virtually no improvement on the level of charges has been made during the past 8 years.

  • The results of the present study are even more alarming when comparing them with two other studies on cross-border payments (cf.IP/01/992; These studies, based on a different methodology and only covering the countries of the Euro-zone, showed average charges of € 17.10 (1999) and € 17.36 (2001) for transfers of €100.

  • The most expensive transfer was from Greece to Denmark, with a total cost of € 60.85. The most expensive countries, on average, for sending transfers were Greece (€ 47.33), Ireland (€ 36.08) and Italy (€ 28.61).

  • The least expensive transfer was from Luxembourg to Belgium (€ 0.00: two banks within the same group). The least expensive countries, on average, for sending transfers were Luxembourg (€ 9.79), the Netherlands (€ 12.11) and Belgium (€ 12.84).

Total Transfer Costs by Sender Country and Type (€)

Sender Country

Sender feesForeign exchange loss1Receiver fees/ shortfall1Total transfer costs
Euro zone to Euro zone22.20na1.5623.75
Euro zone to non-Euro zone22.030.340.3922.76
Non-Euro zone to Euro zone24.920.750.8126.48
Non-Euro zone to non-Euro zone24.460.430.1825.07

1 average for all transfers, the majority of which did not have either a foreign exchange loss or any receiver fees/shortfall

Comparison of studies on Banking charges 1994 2001 (country averages) Cross-border credit transfers        

Study 1993

(12 EU-MS)

Transfer costs of 100 ECU in ECU (rank)

1048 transfers

Study 1994

(12 EU-MS)

Transfer costs of 100 ECU in ECU (rank)

1048 transfers

Study 1999


Transfer costs of €100 in € (rank)

352 transfers

Study 2001


Transfer costs of €100 in € (rank)

352 transfers

Study 2001


Transfer costs of €100 in € (rank)

1480 transfers


--10.61 (3)17.40 (6)22.27 (7)
Belgium23.93 (8)23.06 (6)13.37 (4)11.87 (3)12.84 (3)
Denmark19.89 (5)21.19 (4)--21.23 (5)
Finland--20.11 (8)14.36 (5)21.26 (6)
France34.79 (12)33.01 (12)16.88 (6)18.06 (7)25.41 (9)
Germany19.57 (3)26.16 (7)13.78 (5)11.93 (4)14.73 (4)
Greece27.23 (9)32.78 (10)--47.33 (15)
Ireland23.04 (7)27.13 (9)25.98 (10)25.04 (10)36.08 (14)
Italy13.79 (4)20.88 (3)18.28 (7)19.74 (8)28.61 (13)
Luxembourg16.84 (1)15.75 (1) 8.91 (1) 9.58 (1) 9.79 (1)
Netherlands17.69 (2)18.84 (2)10.00 (2)11.45 (2)12.11 (2)
Portugal34.37 (11)26.75 (8)29.68 (11)31.04 (11)28.08 (11)
Spain21.10 (6)22.04 (5)20.50 (9)20.56 (9)24.65 (8)
Sweden- ---27.20 (10)
UK27.45 (10)32.99 (11)--28.47 (12)

Double charging

  • The Cross-Border Credit Transfers Directive states that except when convened otherwise between the sender and this bank all charges are to be borne by the sender of the transfer. This is called an "OUR" transfer. 7 banks out of 40 did not send any transfers "OUR"; only one bank out of these seven stated before doing the transfers that they could not do an OUR transfer.

  • 1,204 (81.7%) of the people receiving transfers had the full amount expected credited to their accounts.

  • 239 people (16.2%) received less than expected, and 30 people (2.0%) received more than expected.

  • Of the 239 transfers (16.2%), where the receiver received less than he expected, there were 178 cases (12.1%) where transfer has not been sent OUR, so additional charges had been levied by the bank of the beneficiary. This is in contradiction with the Cross-Border Credit Transfers Directive which clearly states that except when convened otherwise all charges are to be borne by the sender of the transfer. In 61 cases (4.1%) it was unclear why the receiver was charged; sometimes intermediary institutions levied charges, which is also in contradiction to the Cross-Border Credit Transfers Directive.

  • There were 30 transfers (2%), where the receiver received more than expected because the sender bank sent more to cover the charges levied by the receiver bank. If the receiver bank did not charge (as much), the beneficiary was credited with a higher amount.

Analysis of Receiver Deductions

Primary reason for deduction

Number of transfersShare of transfers with deductionsShare of all transfers arrived
Transfer not sent OUR17866.2%12.1%
Unexplained receiver deduction6122.7%4.1%

Information provision

  • Only 16 out of the 40 senders were provided with a brochure or some other form of printed information in advance of the transfers being carried out. The printed information that was provided gave information on costs, but generally lacked information on timing, exchange rates, value dates and redress procedures, as specified in the Directive.

  • The information provided to senders and receivers subsequent to the transfers being carried out was generally better. The most frequent omission was that fewer than half of receivers were quoted the original amount of the transfer (see table below).


(% transfers provided)


(% transfers provided)

Reference quoted73.7%73.9%
Original amount 97.6%47.0%
Charges quoted97.6%86.5%
Value date quoted74.7%77.0%
Exchange Rate quoted95.1%na


  • For the 83 transfers that were more than one day late, with respect to the agreed time limit, the sender contacted their bank to ask why the transfers had arrived late and whether they were entitled to compensation. Banks gave a variety of responses, the most common response being that the receiver should contact his bank, as the sender bank had no control over when the receiver was credited. No bank offered the sender compensation for transfers that arrived late.

  • For the 239 transfers where the receivers were charged, the senders went back to their banks to ask their banks whether their transfers had been sent "OUR". The vast majority of these transfers had not been sent "OUR" despite the fact that there has been no explicit agreement not to do so. Three banks (representing 37 transfers) agreed to rectify the affected transfers by re-crediting the receivers' charges. 16 sender banks (representing 42 transfers) confirmed that the transfers had been sent "OUR" and suggested the receivers contact their banks.

  • Where the sender bank advised the sender that the receiver should contact his bank, the receivers returned to their banks to make further enquiries. The most common receiver bank response was that the transfers involved had not been sent OUR, contradicting what their banks had told the senders of these transfers. Other receiver banks claimed they had not made any charges and suggested that an intermediary bank must have made a charge. One bank in Germany re-credited the receiver for all deductions.

For further details of the study, see the Europa web-site:

(1) Cf. IP/01/992 ;

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