According to consumer advocates, financial institutions have misadjusted interest rates on savings contracts for years. We reveal what those affected can do about it.
The consumer center in Baden-Württemberg found clues at 31 institutes where consumers were credited with insufficient interest. In the 43 cases investigated, the financial institutions withheld according to the consumer advocates a total of 89,970 euros too much, an average of 2,092 euros per case.
“We recalculated a large number of contracts, and consumers received on average only about half of the interest that they would actually be entitled to,” said Niels Nauhauser from the Baden-Württemberg Consumer Center in an interview. But it doesn’t have to stay that way, because those affected can ask for the money.
What are the savings contracts?
Nauhauser: The contracts of the savings banks and banks have different names, but many were offered as “premium savings”. The saver pays a certain amount each month, receives a variable current interest rate and, in addition, a premium or bonus on top of that as the term increases.
What has the investigation of the consumer advice centers found?
We criticize the institutions that even 15 years after the BGH decided for the first time that certain interest rate adjustment clauses are non-transparent and therefore unlawful, they do not adjust the interest rate as required by case law.
Some banks calculated the interest differently according to the BGH rulings, but did not comply with the applicable law. They should have made a new rate adjustment agreement with their customers. Instead, they sometimes applied new clauses at their own discretion, without ever agreeing them with customers. It does not work like that.
And the new agreements are often still inadmissible. It then says, for example, that the interest would be based on a change in the reference interest rate and reference is made to a “floating ten-year interest rate from the Bundesbank statistics”.
However, the Bundesbank publishes several interest rates that could be meant. If the consumer cannot see how the bank will adjust interest rates, the clause is non-transparent and therefore inadmissible.
What do you now advise consumers with long-term savings contracts?
Look at the current interest! In many contracts it is practically zero, the interest rate is often 0.01 percent. If there is no clear regulation in the contract on how interest rates will be adjusted so that one can also check this for oneself, this is a good indication of an unlawful interest adjustment clause.
There is information and a podcast on the subject on the website of the consumer advice center. With the sample letter you can write to your bank and ask for a recalculation of the interest according to the BGH case law.
What happens then?
Then, in our experience, it is the case that many banks also make an additional payment offer. However, you should also check again because the bank’s first offer does not necessarily take the case law into account.
We saw offers from banks that were far lower than the saver’s claim for additional payments. Then you have to follow up with good arguments. Since the legal situation is usually clear, the risk of legal action is also manageable. You have to check that in individual cases.