What started as a marginal court case in Germany could have a major impact on the country’s banking system. An investigation into an online seller of fake perfumes has led to a radical change in bank secrecy rules.
Bank secrecy has been under fire from all angles over the past few years. Much of the focus has been on countries like Switzerland and Luxembourg, which have been forced by authorities of late to end their own bank secrecy rules and even give up the names of clients that evaded taxes by parking money in their banks.
In Germany, which also tends to place a premium on data protection and the privacy of customer information, a court ruling Wednesday could have a similar effect.
It began with a classic case of counterfeiting. The online seller of counterfeit versions of Davidoff Hot Water was operating under a pseudonym on eBay. The maker of the original perfume, Coty, wanted to uncover the suspects’ real names by using the account data provided to eBay.
It proved a lengthy journey, pitting the cosmetics giant against the mid-sized savings bank, Sparkasse Magdeburg, a savings bank in eastern German that hosted the sellers’ accounts.
The savings bank initially resisted Coty’s request for the seller’s identity, citing secrecy requirements. That has now been overruled by the first civil division of Germany’s Federal Supreme Court.