The Bank of Spain received in 2020, the year of the pandemic, more than 21,300 consumer complaints against banks operating in the country. This figure represents an increase of 45.6% compared to 2019 data, according to a report from the supervisory body published this Tuesday. It is also a figure higher than that of 2018, but it is still below the years of most conflict due to certain bad practices in banking, such as floor clauses (2013 and 2014) or mortgage expenses (2017).
The document highlights that almost two-thirds of the claims received by the Bank of Spain during the past year are due to mortgages, cards and checking accounts. The agency reminds that its complaints box can only address those protests that have already been previously transferred to the bank’s own customer service. These offices received a total of more than 820,000 complaints last year, 53% more than a year earlier.
Mortgages continue to be the main subject that leads consumers to go first to the customer service of their bank and, later, to the Bank of Spain. Specifically, they account for 26.9% of the claims received by the agency. Although, the Bank of Spain remarks that its weight over the total is in frank reduction compared to the rest of the reasons that lead a client to protest the banking practices. In 2017 it accounted for more than 81% of the claims received by the Bank of Spain.
Fernando Tejada, responsible for market conduct and claims of the agency, explained on Tuesday that the latest mortgage credit law, in force for two years, is expected to continue to lose weight over the total claims in the coming courses . Those regulations provided more transparency and consumer protection tools when contracting a mortgage and a good part of the claims received by the Bank of Spain are due to credits granted before that regulation. Specifically, according to the supervisor, the main claims matters in mortgage matters are those motivated by the payment of formalization expenses and by products related to mortgages.
Gains prominence in claims relating to credit, debit and revolving cards. This matter, which just two years ago had less relevance in the claims of the Bank of Spain, are already on a par with mortgages, accounting for 26.4% of the total. During the past academic year, claims for this type of banking products have doubled. The agency points out that the strong increase has been produced especially by the increase in fraudulent operations (138% more in one year), which links it to the increase in digital services for which a card is used. Also noteworthy is the sharp increase in claims arising from revolving cards, a consumer credit product that has been repeatedly sanctioned by the courts for its high interest rates. Complaints about this product often refer to the lack of information that is passed on to the customer.
The third matter on the total weight of claims are checking accounts and deposits. Claims in this case have grown by almost 47% compared to 2019. This has been produced mainly by customer protests about commissions, especially those for maintenance.
Of the more than 21,000 claims that the Bank of Spain has received, it has only issued reports on just over 7,000. This is due to the fact that many of the claims that arrive at the agency’s mailbox do not comply with the prior procedure of having gone to the bank’s own customer service. Others correspond to issues over which it has no jurisdiction, as is the case with insurance companies. In the cases in which the supervisor does enter, they end up giving the customer the reason in 69% of the cases, either because the report obliges the bank or because once the process has started, the bank ends up giving the consumer the reason. The Bank of Spain is aware that these procedures have granted a refund to customers of more than 3 million euros, although it assures that the figure could be higher, due to those agreements that banks and customers end up reaching.
Banco Santander appears in the report as the bank with the most claims at the Bank of Spain, with 3,849, of the more than 21,000 received by the agency. CaixaBank follows, with 2,696. Although, adding those received by Bankia, an entity already absorbed in 2021, it would be around 5,000 claims. The third bank is BBVA, with 2,400 claims. The three large Spanish banks account for more than half of the claims received by the Bank of Spain. Sabadell, Wizink and Ibercaja, follow them.
The number of inquiries that consumers have made at the Bank of Spain has also skyrocketed over the past year. They were more than 46,800, which represents an increase of 54% compared to the 2019 data.