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viernes, 13 de abril de 2012

Otra consulta sobre cuentas bancarias en la UE

El pasado 20 de marzo, la Comisión Europea presentó un nuevo documento de consulta pública referido a las cuentas bancarias: Commission services working document Consultation on bank accounts. En el citado documento se incluye el cuestionario que integran, en total, 18 preguntas, cuyas respuestas deben ser remitidas a la Comisión antes del día 12 de junio de 2012, si bien se admitirán además comentarios adicionales sobre cómo impulsar un mejor funcionamiento del mercado bancario para los consumidores (retail, minorista, etc.).

Las preguntas se agrupan en tres apartados. El primero aborda el tema de las comisiones por cuentas bancarias, en concreto, la transparencia y comparabilidad de las mismas. Aunque esta materia se vio afectada por la normativa en materia de servicios de pagos, se estima que hay aspectos que admiten una mejor ordenación con vistas a la tutela de los consumidores:

“Clear, easily accessible and comparable information on fees is key to allow the consumer to make an informed choice between the payment account offers available on the market. The Payment Services Directive (2007/64/EC) introduced certain transparency obligations for EU payment services providers. Before a payment service is undertaken, the payment service provider needs to provide the user with, among others, detailed terms and conditions, including information on the payment service provider itself, features of the payment service and its associated charges. After each payment, the user needs to be informed of the payment amount, its date, and related charges. However, the Payment Services Directive (PSD) does not contain specific requirements as to the manner of presentation or comparability of those charges.

The evidence gathered by Commission services over the last years identifies persistent problems regarding the level of information on bank fees offered and the way in which this is presented by banks in the EU. Studies have found that consumers often do not know how much they pay for bank charges. The use of opaque fee structures makes it difficult for consumers to compare different offers. Evidence points to a correlation between higher charges and the lack of clarity in presenting information on bank fees. Consumer organizations identify the use of different banking terminology as one of the reasons explaining the complexity and lack of transparency of bank fees.

The difficulty in understanding and comparing bank account fees may create an obstacle to consumer mobility – both at national and EU level. A recent Eurobarometer survey found that one of the main reasons given by consumers for not purchasing financial products (such as current accounts) in another EU country was the lack of clear information.

As a result, consumers may find themselves ‘locked in’ a relationship with their bank, paying prices that are too high and ‘benefiting’ from services that they do not always need. According to a recent survey by a French consumer organization, French consumers, who make little use of banking services, would pay up to 195 % more for a package than if they could choose ‘à la carte’ the bank account services which best suit their needs”.

El segundo apartado se refiere a los problemas detectados en el traslado de la cuenta de un cliente de una entidad a otra:

“In 2007, after the inquiry into the retail banking sector revealed barriers to customer mobility, the Commission asked the European banking industry (EBIC) to make it easier for consumers to move their accounts from one bank to another in the same country. In response, in 2008, the European banking industry developed a ‘model’ switching mechanism defined by a set of self-regulatory Common Principles for Bank Account Switching. Those principles were implemented by the national banking associations by the end of 2009.

In order to assess how banks assist consumers with bank account switching and to what extent they offer the switching service as defined in the Common Principles, the Commission contracted a mystery shopping study in 2011. In total mystery shoppers conducted 1 350 enquiries in 27 Member States: 945 enquiries concerned only the availability and provision of information on the bank account switching service but 405 mystery shoppers went beyond an enquiry and actually tried to switch their bank account.

In general, the study concluded that 8 out of 10 shoppers faced difficulties when switching a bank account.

El último objeto de la consulta apunta a la apertura por los ciudadanos europeos de una cuenta bancaria. Al parecer, más de 30 millones de europeos mayores de edad carecen de una cuenta bancaria propia, lo que implica costes elevados para la realización de operaciones esporádicas, así como la imposibilidad de beneficiarse de ventajas contractuales y financieras allí donde se carece de una cuenta bancaria. La Comisión aprobó su Recomendación 2011/442/EU, de 18 de julio de 2011, más en su aplicación se adivinan aspectos mejorables:

“In order to address this situation, in July 2011, the Commission adopted a Recommendation to Member States stating the fundamental principles that should be put in place to guarantee consumers’ access to basic payment accounts throughout the EU. This basic account would include the facility to deposit and withdraw cash into and from the account. It would also enable the consumer to make essential payment transactions such as receiving income or benefits, paying bills or taxes and purchasing goods and services, including via direct debit, credit transfer and the use of a payment card. According to the Recommendation, the basic account could also give the opportunity to the consumer to initiate payment orders via the payment service provider’s online banking facilities where technically possible. However, access to credit was not considered as an automatic component of or a right attached to a basic payment account.

The Recommendation affirmed the right of any consumer residing in the Union, irrespective of his/her financial circumstances, to open and use a basic payment account, even in a Member State where s/he does not permanently reside. The deadline for Member States to take the necessary measures was 21 January 2012. The Commission
Services are in the process of analysing the information received to date on the measures taken. However, many Member States still need to provide information in this respect.

Furthermore, all Member States are expected to provide by July 2012 statistical information in relation to basic bank accounts”.

Madrid, 13 de abril de 2012