If you deposit your cash in a bank, you are effectively lending it money, so it doesn’t really seem fair for the bank to charge you for it. It’s why banks in most countries offer free checking accounts – to the chagrin of many bankers who complain that the practice masks everything a bank has to do to keep those accounts operating.
Some German banks – frustrated even more by interest rates that are among the lowest in Europe – are trying to change that. So far, 11 banks have introduced fees for retail customers, in most cases only for holding sums above a certain threshold, according to the Verivox comparison website. Whether they are allowed to by law is another matter.
These negative rates for normal savers break a taboo in Germany and could soon be challenged in court. The consumer advice center for the state of Baden-Württemberg has filed a complaint against a local bank, Volksbank Reutlingen, saying it was inadmissible for customers to be charged without their approval. It has threatened to take legal action if necessary to clarify the situation.