People who feel that dealing with banks is a form of cruel and unusual punishment now have the European Commission on their side. Brussels is telling banks in the EU it is time to end fee structures and procedures which confuse customers. Rules on fair play must be respected, or bad behaviour will be taken up with national governments.
The consumer protection commissioner read out the riot act: “Retail financial contracts and commercial practices often violate the basic principles of a good consumer markets. What are these principles? First of all, fair marketing that does not mislead or pressure consumers. Second, complete and relevant information about the service they are buying and about its true cost. Third, fair commercial practices that do not impose excessive constraints or abusive charges.” Meglena Kuneva presented a report showing that having a current account can cost customers far more in some countries than others, ranging from 27 euros a year in Bulgaria to almost ten times that in Italy. The report analysing some 80 percent of the market found many banks appeared to try to bamboozle customers; Two thirds of the banks surveyed provided information that was so unclear that experts needed to contact the institutions for clarification. The report was especially critical about banks in Austria, France, Italy and Spain. Belgian, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese banks scored best.