Fines for banks that ignore their customers
The government’s planned Financial Customer Ombudsman Authority is expected to be able to impose fines on financial institutions of up to 5% of their revenues and make its rulings binding on complaints of up to 20,000 euros. It would be financed by a levy on banks of 250 euros for each admissible complaint.
The draft bill to create the Autoridad Administrativa Independiente de Defensa del Cliente Financiero is already at the public hearing stage. Following this process, the Council of Ministers will approve the draft law, which is expected to be adopted in the second half of 2022.
To finance this body, financial institutions will have to pay a fee initially set at 250 euros for each complaint admitted. The aim is to encourage the complaints and claims services of the financial institutions themselves to resolve citizens’ disputes quickly. The service will be free of charge for customers, who will be able to make claims without the need for a lawyer or solicitor.
The draft bill envisages fines for financial institutions of up to 5% of their income for serious infringements, which will be those that can be considered particularly relevant due to “the number of people affected, the repetition of the conduct or the effects on customer confidence and the stability of the financial system”. Moreover, the resolutions of this body will be binding when the amounts claimed are less than 20,000 euros.
Three levels for dealing with complaints
The creation of this authority complements the institutional system for resolving complaints in the financial sphere, which is currently divided into three levels: firstly, the customer services of the financial institutions themselves; secondly, the complaints services of the supervisory bodies; and finally, the judicial bodies.
This body will centralise the current complaints services of the Bank of Spain, the Comisión Nacional del Mercado de Valores (CNMV) and the Dirección General de Seguros y Fondos de Pensiones. This will allow joint and coordinated treatment of complaints from financial customers and should result in better analysis of disputes and speed of service.
Both individuals and legal entities will be able to file complaints with the new body for breaches of rules of conduct, good financial practices and usages, as well as for abuse of clauses declared as such by the relevant courts in relation to financial contracts.
The draft bill affects all financial institutions: credit institutions, investment services companies, insurance companies, financial credit institutions, participatory financing platforms, lenders and credit intermediaries, payment and electronic money institutions and issuers and service providers in the fintech and crypto-asset sector.
In order to ensure adequate and inclusive access to this dispute resolution system, the draft bill establishes the principle of personalised attention. Therefore, the age, the characteristics of the geographical area and the level of skills of citizens will be taken into account.
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