CUSTOMERS of banks will now receive their bank account statements once a month for free, they will be informed about any changes in banking fees two months in advance, they will pay less for transactions or for termination of an account: all these goodies have not arrived as part of a pre-Christmas promotion package by Slovak banks but because parliament has brought the country’s law into compliance with an EU directive.
Slovakia’s parliament amended the country’s law on payment services to harmonise the country’s legislation with European Union standards. Observers say that bank customers will perceive the cancellation of certain fees as the most significant benefit.
The banks have generally said that they approve of the idea of standardisation with EU rules and that most of these rules had already been applied but they also predict certain negative impacts on their banking operations.
“The unification of the rules is on one hand the correct move because the clients, and the banks as well, will have unified rules,” Marcel Laznia, spokesman of the Slovak Banking Association, told The Slovak Spectator.
“However, it is necessary to add that Europe is still not a unified whole where all the players behave in the same way. Thus, the application of unified rules could have different impacts. Partially, our concern is also the transposition of the payment services directive into Slovakia’s law on financial services.”
The EU directive brings bank customers several new features in the area of payment systems and bank card operations, Laznia said. For example, in comparison with the current system, international payments will be speeded up and the level of protection of customers in the event of unauthorised banking card use has been unified.
“Also, the directive and the law now require that clients receive a free account statement once a month,” Laznia said. “It must be said that that the vast majority of clients were already accessing this information for free before adoption of the law.”
Laznia said that some of the measures incorporated into the new law had already been applied in Slovakia such as free account statements or the time period limitation for domestic transfers.
“However, some of the newly required measures might have a negative impact on banks, for example in cases of unauthorised bank card operations,” he added.
The legislation which comes into force as of December 1, 2009, requires banks to standardise and reduce the fee for termination of a bank account as well as fees for certain other transactions. For instance, a Slovak bank card user who withdraws money from an automatic teller machine of a different bank must currently pay an accounting item fee in addition to the withdrawal fee, which makes such cross-bank ATM withdrawals costly in Slovakia. The new legislation prohibits banks from charging double fees, the SITA newswire wrote.
Štefan Frimmer, spokesperson for Slovenská Sporiteľňa, told the Slovak Spectator that banks have three months, beginning on December 1, to implement the new legislation.
Fees for blocking the use of a lost or stolen bank card will also be abolished. And if a customer’s bank card is stolen and an unauthorised transaction is made, the cardholder will share the damages of the unauthorised transaction only up to €100.
Elena Kohútiková of VÚB Banka told Hospodárske Noviny daily that when a bank card is cancelled, the customer is also eligible for a refund of the remaining part of the annual fee for the card. She also said that customers will now have 13 months to file a complaint regarding any transactions on their accounts.
Boris Gandel, spokesman of Tatra Banka, said that the new law brings transparency to bank fees, more information for customers, a shorter time period for processing and administering payment orders and last, but not least, it will strengthen competition in the banking sector.
“The creation of unified rules opens room for expansion to new markets by banks,” Gandel told The Slovak Spectator.
According to Gandel, ambiguous and differing interpretation of some provisions of the regulations and the application of so-called national exemptions for some provisions has prevented complete unification of banking rules at the EU level.
16. Nov 2009 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová