The Bank of Spain has urged banks to report on free basic payment accounts. Within its supervision exercise, after visiting 152 bank branches of 12 entities during the last two months of 2021, the Bank of Spain has detected the need for “improvement in the information offered on the gratuity of the basic payment account” for vulnerable groups or groups at risk of financial exclusion.
The supervisor considers that the entities do not offer all the information that they must provide to the clients who are potential beneficiaries of this type of accounts, which have a minimum cost and with which Basic operations do not carry commissions.
Since 2019, by law, banks are required to offer vulnerable customers or customers in danger of financial exclusion (provided they meet certain requirements) basic payment accounts. This regulation was promoted by the European Union and had the oobjective of guaranteeing inclusion by giving access to certain minimum banking services considered as basic and essential for free, without commissions. Among these services are the most common operations, such as depositing funds, withdrawing cash, direct debiting receipts and making payments by debit or prepaid card or transfers within the European Union.
Basic accounts have a maximum commission of three euros per month (36 euros per year) for maintenance and are limited to 120 operations per year, but for the most vulnerable groups the account is completely free and no commission is applied.
“Banks are not only obliged to offer this type of account without conditioning their contracting to the subscription of other services, but also to make them known and report on their characteristics,” says the Bank of Spain on the banking customer portal.
Beyond the banking supervisor, consumer associations Facua and Asufin also point to poor marketing of this type of accounts due to the general ignorance of the clients. In fact, they explain that entities only offer basic accounts when the client explicitly asks for it.
“Banks should publicize the basic payment account along with the rest of the current accounts they sell so that consumers can find out about its existence, know what the requirements are for hiring it and thus decide whether to hire it or not,” he says. Miguel Angel SerranoVice President of Facua.
The Bank of Spain does not provide data on the number of basic payment accounts that have been opened in Spain, but from Asufin they indicate that their commercialization is reduced because the entities do not provide information on these options.
“We believe that the banks are failing to comply with the obligation to inform that this alternative exists. If the client meets certain requirements, they have the right to access, but the banks give little information and it is not conveniently or sufficiently informed,” he values. Patricia Suarez, president of Asufin. “It is a complex option because it does not reach the population. There is a lack of pre-contractual information and it is also not offered to the client,” she adds.
For their part, the financial sources consulted indicate that it is a product with low demand, since banks currently offer free digital accounts without commissions nor requirements that even improve the conditions of the basic account.
In the case of CaixaBankthe entity sells fewer basic accounts because, instead, it offers the social accountalso aimed at vulnerable groups and which is more favorable, allows you to have a current account, debit or credit card, access to online banking and free use of CaixaBank ATMs, without commissions.
Equally, Sabadell offers the Sabadell account, that provides more advantages for the client than the basic account, since it contains the same services with the option of a total or partial discount depending on the degree of customer loyalty.