Infotech

Closing of accounts: banks summoned to explain themselves



Posted on Jan 13, 2022 1:48 PMUpdated Jan 13, 2022, 2:05 PM

It’s not yet the big spring cleaning. But several banks have decided to clean up their customer portfolios. This is particularly the case of ING and N26 which, for different reasons, have recently increased the number of account closings in France, causing some stir among their clients.

The phenomenon also alerted the ACPR. The banking policeman has indeed asked for explanations this week from N26. Many customers of the German neobank have complained in recent days, in the media and on social networks, of “arbitrary” account closings. They would number in the hundreds, with in some cases difficulties in recovering the funds, according to testimonies collected by RMC. A group of “customers scammed by N26” would even consider taking legal action.

Fight against fraud

N26, which has more than 2 million customers in France, claims to have acted “within the framework of the necessary fight against fraud and money laundering”. “We are a bank, and like all banks, to protect our customers, we carry out checks on their accounts and their transactions,” Jérémie Rosselli, Managing Director of N26 France and Benelux, explains to Les Echos. And we close accounts when there is suspicion of fraud and / or money laundering. “

The management of N26 France, which claims to have operated within the rules, denies any exceptional phenomenon. She just recognizes that “the volume of closings is proportionately more important from year to year because the bank grows and has more and more customers”. It also guarantees that in 97% of cases, funds were returned without delay to customers whose accounts were closed.

The neobank, which has amassed more than 7 million customers in less than ten years, was sanctioned last year by BaFin, the German counterpart of the ACPR, for failures in risk management. In addition to a fine of 4.2 million euros, N26 had been imposed a conquest limit of 50,000 new customers per month in order to better focus its resources on the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The situation in France has no connection with German decisions, warns the French subsidiary.

A legal process

Account closings are not unusual in the banking world. “It’s part of the job,” remarks a banker. Banks are even among the rare retail businesses to be able to legally refuse to sell, and therefore to be able to choose their customers according to their own criteria.

This can be a choice of commercial policy, with customer segmentation according to their ability to generate income for the bank. But it is more often for reasons of compliance with regulations and the fight against fraud and money laundering, as in the case of N26.

In the process of selling its retail bank, ING France confirmed last week that thousands of savings accounts had been closed since the summer. In most cases, these are poorly provided accounts – a few tens of euros – or inactive, held by clients who have no other account in the establishment, to whom the funds have been fully refunded.

The anger of customers

The subsidiary of the Dutch bank ensures that these closures are not linked to the current “strategic review”, which was concluded with the decision to sell the direct bank in France. But they are a consequence of “negative rates applied by the European Central Bank (ECB)”, which cost the bank.

The legal method is denounced by France Conso Banque, which has decided to set up a collective to defend customers. “In an incredibly cynical way, ING has decided to declare war on its customers, the weakest, the most vulnerable, the least profitable,” laments the association for the defense of consumers, which asserts that blocked accounts are not ” not all inactive ”. She split a letter to the parent company to ask for “commercial compensation for the damage suffered”.

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