The Federal Government apparently has doubts about the legality of so-called negative interest rates. This was reported by the Passauer Neue Presse , citing an audit arranged by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD). This had shown that, based on the current legal situation, it is already a high legal risk for banks to unilaterally pass on the expenses for negative interest rates to their customers within existing contracts. The sheet relies on information from the Ministry of Finance.
Up to now, many banks have asked for penalty interest for deposits of a certain amount, for example, more than 100,000 euros. The financial institutions justify their approach with the negative interest rates on deposits requested by the European Central Bank (ECB).
According to the report, the Ministry of Finance does not rule out state intervention when savers are punished with negative interest rates. In any case, the Federal Financial Services Authority (Bafin) "has sufficient supervisory instruments with which any systematic violations of this legal situation can be prevented". The ministry therefore initially wants to continue to monitor developments.
The CSU finance politician Hans Michelbach warned of a further increase in negative interest rates. "The spiral will continue to turn," he told the Passauer Neue Presse . Deposits below EUR 100,000 could soon be affected by penalty interest. Michelbach criticized this as "a fatal development". In order to offer savers an alternative, the CSU politician proposed a state innovation fund with a guaranteed interest rate of two percent.
38 financial institutions charge negative interest from private customers
According to data from the Internet portal Verivox, at least 16 institutes, primarily Volksbanken and Sparkassen, introduced negative interest rates for private customers' investments or increased existing penalty interest rates in the first weeks of 2020. "The impact of the wave of negative interest rates has increased significantly again this year," said Oliver Maier, Managing Director of Verivox Finanzvergleich GmbH.
Maier pointed out that the introduction initially only applied to new customers. If a bank wants to collect penalty interest from existing customers, it must agree this with them individually.
Verivox evaluated price notices from 800 banks and savings banks that were published on the Internet. According to this, 38 institutions are currently charging negative interest from private customers - usually for balances in the overnight deposit account. In addition, there would be seven financial institutions where the overnight money account cost fees. This would actually result in negative interest, even if it was not shown as such.