N26, the German neobank, leaves its Spanish clients lying without charging unemployment
Spanish clients of the German bank N26 - self-proclaimed as "bank of the future", "first bank that is not lazy" and "#nobullshit" [sin tonterías] - They are discovering these days that they cannot collect unemployment from their accounts. "I found out today. I did not receive money from ERTE and all my colleagues, yes," says Nacho (not his real name), one of its users. "It occurred to me to ask the bank and they just told me that they do not have an agreement with Social Security and that, therefore, they will not pay me in any N26 account. Even if they have a Spanish IBAN."
N26 is a digital bank, which operates over the internet and has no physical branches, founded in Berlin in 2013. It has a European banking license issued in Germany - another of its slogans is "the security of a German bank" - and is supervised as financial institution by the Bank of Spain. According to its latest data, it has more than 400,000 clients in our country, where it has been operating since 2018. As it is not yet profitable by itself, N26 has a powerful investment: to date it has raised 800 million dollars and is valued at 3,500. Precisely this Tuesday, while its clients discovered that unemployment was not coming, N26 announced that it was expanding its latest round of financing. In the midst of a pandemic, it has raised 100 million more.
A year ago, N26 announced that it could already offer accounts with Spanish IBAN (the alphanumeric code that identifies them). Until then the accounts had German IBAN. The novelty led many clients, such as Nacho, to trust exclusively in this bank and close their accounts in the rest. "Since I was able to do the Spanish IBAN I only had N26 for everything," explains this user. "Now there is nothing I can do. I have to open an account at another bank, communicate the change to the Administration and cross my fingers so that they do not take long to pay me everything."
What happened and why have the customers received this unpleasant surprise? In response to questions on social networks, the company has only replied that "in order to receive benefits from SEPE, there must be a collaboration agreement between the financial institution and SEPE. Currently we do not have such an agreement, so we cannot manage these benefits We recommend you contact them for more information. "
In other words: balls out. "Ala, stop yourself," summarizes Nacho. "I have looked at the emails and they have not communicated anything. It does not occur to them to make a post saying: 'because we are a new entity, we still do not have this agreement'. I realize that they are very 'cool' and very happy for solving nonsense and offering you stories, but when there is a serious banking problem the answer is 'come on, if that speaks to the State'. "
N26 does not have an account in the TGSS
The "collaboration agreement" referred to in N26 is a requirement of the General Treasury of Social Security to enter benefits and collect fees, as explained by the SEPE. "In order to receive the payment of benefits, the beneficiary must be the holder of a Spanish account with IBAN ES. The account must belong to a bank that is registered in the agreement with the TGSS," they point out.
Asked by this newspaper, N26 offers the same explanation. He stresses that "unlike what happens in other European countries, in order to process the collection of unemployment the SEPE requires that we have an operating account in the TGSS". The company spokeswoman adds that in the face of this "peculiar process", they work "at maximum speed" so that their clients can have the service as soon as possible.
"The number of clients that have contacted us is very small, although we understand that it will grow," he continues. "That is why we are working not only now, but for many months ago." From SEPE they indicate that entities not included can carry out the procedures so that the TGSS includes them. And that under normal conditions, the system would automatically reject the accounts of non-associated entities. But that now, in the face of the ERTE avalanche, the requests enter pre-request mode, without prior control, and errors like this are detected afterwards.
Frustrated by the bank's lack of information, this customer contacted an N26 worker who confirmed that they are having "a lot of problems." "He told me that there are many people like me: that they were delighted with the account, but that this is a big problem for them. And that until there is an agreement with SEPE, there is no solution."
An old "peculiar process"
The problem hasn't caught N26 off guard. Before the coronavirus and ERTEs, the bank already knew that it did not have an account with the TGSS and therefore could not offer certain services to its customers. For example: the self-employed, who must pay their social security contribution each month and VAT each quarter.
N26 has promoted since 2017 a "free and off-road" account for freelancers, "everything you need to keep your work and professional life separate and organized." It also has a 'premium' and paid version: the N26 Business You account, with insurance included, which costs 9.90 euros per month.
However, a self-employed person cannot domicile the fees or the payment of taxes. "The problem is that the Treasury does not have it on its list of approved banks," explains Pablo, a self-employed person who signed up. This list, which includes more than a hundred entities including banks, savings banks and credit cooperatives, you can check here.
"When ING closed for freelancers and companies, I opened N26 thinking it was the ideal substitute. And when processing the tax payment, the alarm was raised that the bank was not valid," continues Pablo. "The explanation they gave me is that a requirement is that the attached banks must have a physical office. They sell you the motorcycle, which is an account for the self-employed. They told me to have a bank to pay taxes and their account for day-to-day use. And they stayed so wide. So I went to another bank. "
The self-employed who remain in N26 and have run out of business will also not receive unemployment in their account, as confirmed by the company. "The situation is the same and there are the same requirements," they indicate. Despite this, the bank that is "creating the banking experience of the 21st century" and that "adapts so that everything remains the same" does not inform in his post about how to request the benefit of this detail.
"What were they waiting to say? What if we did not get paid, in a month's time, we asked?" Concludes Nacho. "To upload cartoons and emojis are the first. But when it comes to communicating something serious, they shit."