Banks asked to cut charges

The government yesterday urged banks to eliminate a number of controversial terms in lending which have caused reactions among borrowers. In a letter to the Hellenic Bank Association (HBA), General Secretary for Consumer Affairs Yiannis Economou said banks should self-regulate themselves and adopt a friendlier policy to the consumer as soon as possible. The letter, sent in response to numerous complaints regarding banking transactions, concerns 14 terms applied by banks, particularly regarding commission charges for an array of services and transactions. Courts have ruled that such terms are illegal and abusive. In the letter, Economou refers in particularly to four charges, «the nature of which could, by the measure of common sense, to lead banks to a change of practice.» These charges are as follows: – Retroactive interest on the use of credit cards, beginning from the day of the transaction rather than the payment due date indicated on the account statement. The practice burdens consumers with additional interest for an average of 35 days. – Commission fee of -1.40 for transferring money to another person’s account, despite the fact that this is in favor of the bank itself as it increases liquidity. The fee appears unjustified as cost for issuing a receipt for the transaction. – Monthly levies of -0.60-1 for deposit accounts that remain idle for more than 18 months. – Scaled charges of between -3 and -20 for using a credit card to draw cash, unjustified by operating costs. Other abusive charges concern applications for loans, -50 commission for issuing a statement of debts to be transferred to another bank, and a levy of -0.80 for each transaction beyond four in a month. Economou pointed out to HBA that if courts issue irrevocable rulings against such practices, the Development Ministry may issue directives setting new terms of practice for operating banks, or impose sanctions. «Because litigation, until courts arrive at irrevocable rulings, is time-consuming and long, and the significance of the particular rulings is much greater than their number – their content affecting a huge volume of daily transactions with consumers – it is reasonably expected that the banks themselves will hasten to comply with the content of such rulings and remove the controversial terms… as part of an effort to safeguard their credibility and apply the principle of transparency in transactions,» said Economou in the letter.