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French consumer association criticises banks over mobility rules

Some French banks are purposely making it difficult or unattractive for consumers to move their accounts, consumer association UFC-Que Choisir, has said.22 Sep 2017

Seven months after a banking mobility law came into force, high transfer fees and unfair terms still prevent many clients from changing bank, the association said (link in French).

In a survey of about 4,900 consumers, 24% of respondents said they would like to change banks in the next 12 months, but 40% of these said they were put off by "procedures that remain too long and complicated", the UFC-Que Choisir said.

The main issues are refusals to accept moving requests, errors in transfers and general delays. Some banks still have not put mobility procedures in place despite having agreed to do so, it said.

The law also still allows "the billing of juicy intervention commissions" by banks, the association said. While the banking mobility law imposes caps on any charges for the automatic transfer of direct debits from transfers and withdrawals, "the banks have caught up through transfer tariffs for savings products, [which are] not capped," the association said.

There has been an increase of up to 18% on charges for moving some savings products over the past five years, it said.

"The logic of some banking institutions is clear: making banking mobility less attractive to consumers," the study said.

French banks also strongly encourage mortgage customers to have their main bank account with the same bank. An ordinance introduced in June required banks to offer benefits to these customers, such as low interest rates or free administration fees.

However, the current low interest rate environment cancels this out, the association said. Customers won't receive lower rates if they do agree to bank with their mortgage provider, but they will pay higher rates if they don't, it said.