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Watchdog slams French banks over ‘sneaky’ fees

Dan MacGuill · 27 Jun 2013, 12:37

Published: 27 Jun 2013 12:37 GMT+02:00

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The consumer rights group UFC-Que Choisir denounced on Wednesday a rising number of French financial institutions for charging their customers increasing amounts under the somewhat mysterious guise of ‘account-keeping’ fees.

“We denounce this hidden inflation practiced by banks via the rolling out of account-keeping fees,” the group said in a statement.

“In the face of this umpteenth piece of sleight of hand, we call on senators to make available everywhere information on every single withdrawal of banking fees,” they added, noting that the French Senate was this week debating a bill on banking.

France’s ‘Observatory on banking charges’ is designed to monitor charges levied by financial institutions, such as for transfers, credit cards, and ATM withdrawals.

However, the body doesn’t keep an eye on account-keeping fees, “whose definition remains vague,” according to UFC-Que Choisir.

The watchdog notes that while most banking fees have risen in line with inflation, 61 out of 105 institutions they studied this month were now using account-keeping fees to bring in revenue “under the radar”, a sharp rise from 39 in 2010.

These ‘hidden’ fees now cost French consumers and average of €22 per year, according to the group.

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Furthermore, 81 out of 105 institutions now charge account-keeping fees for inactive accounts, to the tune of €43 per year on average, meaning “it’s twice as expensive to do nothing,” according to UFC-Que Choisir.

French-speaking consumers in France can compare fees between different financial institutions, free of charge, on the website of UFC-Que Choisir, until July 3rd.

Dan MacGuill (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

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