The Federal Government apparently doubts the lawfulness of so-called negative interest rates. The Passauer Neue Presse reported on Saturday, citing an audit arranged by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. 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 relied on information from the Ministry of Finance. Up to now, some banks have asked for penalty interest for deposits of a certain amount. Usually, they are raised from a deposit of 100,000 euros in the current account or overnight deposit account. In some cases, however, credits from different accounts are also added together. And the upper limit could also decrease further in the future. The financial institutions justify their approach with the negative interest rates on deposits requested by the European Central Bank (ECB).
The consumer portal biallo.de counted how many banks pass these costs on to their customers in a survey commissioned by the Süddeutsche Zeitung . According to this, a good 186 banks are currently demanding negative interest rates from the almost 3,000 financial and credit institutions in Germany. According to Biallo , the number has almost doubled since July 2019. According to the analysis, 86 banks and savings banks are already demanding negative interest rates from private customers. Six months ago, only 30 financial institutions had asked for these fees. The number of unreported cases is likely to be significantly higher, because according to Biallo , not every institute willingly provides information.
State innovation fund as a solution?
According to the Passauer Neue Presse , the Ministry of Finance does not rule out state intervention because of the burdens on savers from the banks. In any case, the Federal Financial Services Authority (Bafin) "has sufficient regulatory instruments within its mandate to ensure collective consumer protection that can be used to prevent any systematic violations of this legal situation". First of all, the ministry wants to continue to monitor developments.
In this context, CSU finance politician Hans Michelbach warned of a further increase in negative interest rates. "The spiral will continue to turn," he said to the newspaper. 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.
As the Düsseldorf Wirtschaftswoche reported, German banks and savings banks paid EUR 2.4 billion last year for deposits with the Deutsche Bundesbank. The amount remained roughly constant year-on-year, although the ECB raised the negative interest rate for banks from 0.4 to 0.5 percent in September. The introduction of an exemption that came into effect in October had a positive effect.