European Commission criticises opaque bank charges

A report published by the European Commission in Brussels on retail financial services has been critical of the way banks inform and advise their clients.

Some of the specific problems are the information provided by the banks is difficult to understand, problems with advice given, and opaque bank fees.

Current accounts and their cost were the most problematic with the report saying, “Current accounts are very opaque, making it almost impossible for consumers to know how much they are paying and compare different offers”. Indeed during the process of compiling the report, the European commission experts needed additional contact with 66 per cent of the banks surveyed to find out the real costs of an account.

Austria, France, Italy and Spain scored poorly on transparency and are among the most expensive countries for banking accounts.

EU Consumer Commissioner Megkeba Kuneva criticised the retail banks, saying: “Banks need to put their house in order with a culture change in the way they treat their customers. Retail bankers are letting consumers down.”

An independent bank fees study, where the costs of accounts at 224 banks which cover on average 81 per cent of the EU market, was published with this report.

The study showed that there is a huge disparity between the costs of accounts across Europe.

An account for an average user in Italy topped the poll at 253 euros while in Bulgaria a similar account cost only 27 euros.

Italy with 253 euros and Spain with 178 euros topped the European charts for the most expensive accounts, while Bulgaria with 27 euros and Portugal with 45 euros were the most economical.