Every Austrian needs a bank account in one way or another. The experiences that people have with their institute in everyday life are correspondingly large. Not only in a positive sense, as an investigation by the Chamber of Labor (AK) now shows. 15 percent of all complaints to the interest group relate to banking services, a total of around 15,000 individual cases.
“The issue is often a lack of customer service,” reports Gabriele Zgubic, head of AK consumer protection. Furthermore, fraud in online banking and low interest rates on savings. It was therefore decided to carry out a survey on the subject of banks. In the previous year, the websites of 19 institutes were examined for their handling and provision of important information and, at the same time, large-scale mystery shopping was carried out in the branches. Result: “There is still room for improvement,” said Zgubic.
There are shortcomings in savings products in particular, as AK finance expert Christian Prantner puts it in concrete terms: “Every second bank does not offer any information online.” And a third of the institutes examined would not offer potential new customers any savings products. “We don’t need your money, we are sufficiently liquid,” it said. This is not very customer-friendly in times of rising interest rates.
Speaking of rising interest rates: Prantner is “not happy” that savings interest, in contrast to loan interest, is not passed on to customers in the same amount. “The banks have to follow suit faster.”
Prantner highlights Bank Austria as a negative example. In the previous year, this offered a savings book with an opening fee of 20 euros. At 0.02 percent interest. With a deposit of 10,000 euros, it would take more than 13 years to have the 20 euros back, Prantner calculates.
The low interest rates on savings are also due to the lower level of competition. hellobank was taken over by easybank and ING DiBa withdrew from the private customer market. He advises customers to the online banks that still exist, such as Santander or Renault Bank. These would offer higher interest rates than the big banks. However, some of them are registered abroad, so customers may have to pay tax on their income themselves. It is also advisable to pay attention to the liquidity of the banks.
Prantner also criticizes the fact that many banks no longer offer physical savings books or premium savings. Some institutes would also link the opening of a savings account with a new account.
Speaking of a new account: According to Prantner, switching to a new bank has accelerated massively. It used to be 2 to 3 months, now it can only be 12 days. “The bank takes care of all the formalities.” However, according to Zgubic, the Austrians are very loyal bank customers. “A lot has to happen for someone to change.” However, there is a greater willingness to change among younger people. The AK would not have had any complaints about problems with the change.
In general, the two experts would like banks to have more transparency on their online sites. Information can often not be found or does not exist at all. It should be regulated by law that all fees – as in the branches – can be found on the websites. It is also necessary to present different interest rate scenarios for borrowers “to make usability visible”. And last but not least, certain offline offers should also be retained. “Not all customers can keep up with digitization.”
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