Account terminations and complaints: Even more than two years after the bank fee judgment of the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), the anger and uncertainty of consumers continue. Some financial institutions refuse to repay wrongly charged fees. Other institutes terminate the current account if customers do not actively agree to changes in the General Terms and Conditions (GTC) and the associated fee increases.

The financial supervisory authority Bafin received 40 complaints in connection with the implementation of the BGH ruling in the first half of the year. As a rule, it was about the impending or completed termination of the account because bank customers did not actively agree to changes in the general terms and conditions.

Savings bank boss: Termination of legal necessity

One of the most recent examples is Mittelbrandenburgische Sparkasse (MBS). The institute announced that around 8,600 customers had received letters of termination because they had not agreed to the changes to the general terms and conditions. “This is a legal necessity, because we need a secure legal relationship with our customers, and for that we need the customers’ active approval of the general terms and conditions,” said CEO Andreas Schulz on rbb24 Inforadio.

According to the information, the terminations will take effect on October 23 if those affected do not take action. After that, however, the account will not be closed immediately: Customers can give their consent by actively using their private checking account up until November 23, 2023. Active use includes, for example, cash deposits and withdrawals or setting up or changing standing orders.

BGH: Change in terms and conditions requires customer consent

On April 27, 2021, the BGH decided that banks must obtain the consent of their customers when changing general terms and conditions. Money houses therefore had to ask for approval of current fees afterwards. In addition, bank customers can reclaim fees that institutions have charged without their explicit consent.

“In the letters of termination from the savings banks that I have seen so far – including the Mittelbrandenburgische – a period is granted in which the general terms and conditions are still approved after the time of termination by active use,” explains Heiko Fürst from the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv). “That means: With this approach, no one accidentally loses a used account.” From his point of view, the procedure is not objectionable as a possible consequence of the BGH judgment.

“If notice is given, those affected can take the opportunity to look for an alternative account with more favorable conditions,” Fürst continues. “That would also be what consumers would be advised to do.”

Threat of termination if customers ask for a refund

However, some credit institutions threaten to close their accounts if bank customers want to get back fees that have been wrongly paid. The consumer advice center in Baden-Württemberg describes this as “particularly bold” and successfully took the matter to court. As can be seen from a recent acknowledgment judgment by the Higher Regional Court in Stuttgart, a financial institution was prohibited from announcing the termination of a consumer’s checking account if he insisted on a refund of wrongly charged fees.

In addition, the institute must inform certain customers that they can request a refund without the bank “linking it to the adverse consequence of terminating the current current account contractual relationship”. (Az 2 U 34/22).