The basic bank accounts do not finish convincing. Next Monday will come into force the order of the Ministry of Economy that regulates this type of account which, for 3 euros a month, guarantees all the essential services associated with it, such as a debit card or transfers and receipts. Only condition: not having any other payment account open. For more inri, in the coming weeks the Government plans to approve in the Council of Ministers a Royal Decree by which it establishes the complete free of charge basic accounts for people who enter less than about 13,000 euros per year. On these measures, however, their reserves are expressed not only by banks, but also by users, through the associations that represent them. If for the former the European directive does not ask for the creation of free accounts, the latter reproach the regulations for falling short or, at least, setting up accounts that are not sufficiently attractive or useful.
Everything began to take shape years ago in the European Parliament and the Council. A directive approved by these institutions, which would have had to be transposed to the Spanish legal system in 2016, came into force only at the end of 2017, through a Royal Decree promoted by the Government of Rajoy. However, the regulation demanded that the Ministry of Economy regulate some specific issues, including the amount of commissions that banks can demand from the user of a basic account.
The order, approved on February 28 by the department headed by Nadia Calviño, requires entities, from next March 25, to charge monthly "a maximum, single and joint commission not exceeding 3 euros"; an amount that the Banco de España may update every two years. Thus, for the equivalent of 36 euros per year, entities must offer the opening, use and closure of the account, the deposit of funds in cash, withdrawals in cash at the offices or ATMs of the entity in Spain and in the EU, and up to 120 annual payment transactions (ie transfers and direct debits), both in the branch and in the online. If the transaction quota is exceeded, the commissions on the excess may not be higher than the average annual expenses that each entity applies in other cases. These measures will be published every three months by the Bank of Spain.
An unattractive product
From the Association for the defense of consumers and users of banks (Adicae) doubt the usefulness of basic accounts, how they have been configured. "They lose a lot of attractiveness when compared to other types of accounts that already exist in the financial market and that have zero commissions, although these are conditioned to different requirements." From a similar position, Ileana Izverniceanu, spokesperson for the Organization of consumers and users (OCU), points out that before the regulation "practically all citizens could already access a current account".
An opinion that coincides with that of the spokesperson of the Spanish Banking Association (AEB), José Luis Martínez. "Financial exclusion, which the European directive tries to avoid, is a problem that does not exist in Spain, where practically the entire population has a bank account to make payments," he says. And he adds that "in Spain it is very easy and massive access to financial services, with prices 60% lower than the European average."
"With few exceptions, we do not believe that basic accounts are an interesting option for most users," insists Izverniceanu, who stresses, however, that the issue in his most serious opinion regarding financial exclusion –The large reduction in the number of offices in rural areas during the crisis– it is not addressed.
Free, for vulnerable groups
Beyond the commissions of the basic accounts, the Government of Sanchez intends to comply shortly with another point of the Royal Decree of 2017. It is to establish "more advantageous conditions in terms of commissions according to the special situation of vulnerability or risk of financial exclusion of potential customers "of these accounts, says the regulations. Therefore, the Executive hurries the deadlines to approve in the coming weeks another Royal Decree, whose objective is to guarantee the free basic accounts for this group. Sources of the Ministry of Economy assure that the Royal Decree will be taken to the Council of Ministers "as soon as possible and, in any case, before the elections".
The requirement to apply for a basic account totally free will not receive income that exceeds 12,908 euros per year, which corresponds to twice the public indicator of income of multiple effects (Iprem), if it is a person who lives alone. In the event that the applicant is a member of a family unit with fewer than four members, the threshold will be 16,135 euros, and 19,362 euros in the case of a large family.
Who assumes the cost?
Despite this purpose of the Royal Decree, from Adicae they label the regulation as "defective, since it continues to protect the interests of banking", by renouncing to establish universal free basic accounts and by not taking into account "individual cases of authenticity". risk of financial exclusion ". The same sources indicate, in this regard, people with a degree of disability equal to or greater than 33% or in a situation of dependency or incapacity for work, the unemployed over 52 years, the victims of gender violence, and the people who pay mortgage payments greater than 40% of net income of the family unit.
However, "banks are forced to make expensive investments and use human resources for these accounts although the European standard does not ask them to provide these services for free," says Martinez, who believes that "public administrations should assume the cost of the gratuity or discount of the services that they consider necessary according to their social policies, as it happens in other cases ".
An important "bureaucratic burden"
Among other aspects that criticize the sources of Adicae is the "bureaucratic burden" that, in his words, will be necessary to demonstrate that the criteria for obtaining gratuity are met. According to the draft Royal Decree, and unless modified before approval, the user must provide the family book or registration document as a couple, and an updated certificate of registration in which all the people who live in the same house, to prove the number of people that make up the family unit; a certificate of income and, where appropriate, a certificate of the Patrimony Tax, the last three payrolls, a certificate of benefits or unemployment benefits, a certificate of social wages or minimum insertion income, and, in the case of workers autonomous, a certificate that shows the monthly amount that would be received if the activity had ceased, to determine the income of the family unit.
The free basic account will be maintained for a period of two years. When finished, the bank will ask the customer to update the information. Both during the first request and in the updates, this information can be obtained electronically by the entity, if the client authorizes it.