Dispute over a new type of bank
Volksbanken and Sparda banks are protesting against the new Check 24 bank. They criticize that a company cannot promise neutral comparisons of current accounts and offer one itself at the same time.
Dhe new bank, with which the Internet comparison company Check 24 advertises private customers for checking accounts, is apparently causing a dispute. As can be seen from a letter from the Association of Sparda Banks and the Bavarian Cooperative Association to two federal ministries, which the FAZ has received, some banks apparently do not agree that Check 24 also offers the only publicly certified comparison platform for current accounts and also manages current accounts . The association bosses Florian Rentsch (Sparda-Banken) and Jürgen Gros (Cooperative Association Bavaria) complain to Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Christine Lambrecht (SPD), the Federal Minister for Justice and Consumer Protection.
Letter to the government
The letter states that Check 24 is the only certified comparison platform for checking accounts in Germany according to the so-called comparison website regulation. The regulation intended to promote competition through these comparison websites as well as the creation of an objective cost comparison for bank customers has hardly occurred so far. Instead, Check 24 made significant errors in its comparisons. In addition, the situation has changed insofar as Check 24 is now directly intervening in the competition with its own mobile banking service C24. This market entry not only distorts the competitive situation in an inadmissible way, it also puts the objectivity of Check 24 as a certified provider of a comparison website “into question”. “We ask you either to amend the regulation so that these conflicts of interest are excluded from the outset, for example with the introduction of an incompatibility clause with regard to the dual role of provider of banking products and comparison website operator, or to request Check 24 that they now respond as a competitor to the offer do without a comparison website, ”write the banking associations. “We still consider a private-sector comparison website to be the right approach, but the comparison must not be in the hands of providers who pursue their own economic interests.”
Check 24 defends itself
The associations have not yet received a response from the ministries to last week’s letter. Check 24 reacted in astonishment to the criticism. Otherwise you work well with the banks, who are partners of the company for the comparison platform. A spokeswoman for Check 24 said: “Our basic goal is to empower consumers through our transparent service. With the first certified comparison platform for checking accounts, we have achieved what politics and regulation have demanded. There are clearly defined standards that we strictly adhere to. ”The company discussed its plans with its long-term banking partners in advance. “Check 24 is and will remain an open platform for its cooperation partners,” assured the spokeswoman. “Our core business is the comparison and the associated sales partnership with our long-term banking partners.” As an “open banking platform”, that is, as a platform for brokering the products of different banks, C24 Bank strengthens this model and offers the partners another sales interface.
The Federal Ministry of Finance reacted diplomatically. “We take the advice of the Volksbanken and Sparda-Banken seriously and follow them up,” said a spokeswoman. “We also consider it desirable that there is more than one provider of a comparison website.” According to the requirements of the European Payment Accounts Directive, however, it is sufficient if consumers have free access to at least one website that enables a comparison of the fees.
At the start for around two weeks
The comparison portal Check 24 has been up and running with its own bank for around two weeks. The company has officially applied for a banking license under the name “C24” and is now attracting customers for current accounts. There are three account types, including a free account with a free Mastercard debit card. With the, customers should be able to withdraw money free of charge at practically all ATMs in Germany, but the number of free withdrawals per month is limited to different amounts depending on the account model. Customers should also receive construction loans, installment loans and investments such as overnight and fixed-term deposits through the bank – however, the bank does not offer these products itself, but provides them via its comparison platforms from other banks (“open banking”). Customers should get more attractive interest rates than their house bank, said Christoph Röttele, CEO and spokesman for the management at Check 24.
The new bank is also attracting some attention because Check 24 claims that it has around 15 million customers and has large advertising budgets. However, the company does not say that it now wants to roll out the German banking market and does not even want to say whether it is aiming for a number of customers like ING Germany or Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank: “We want to be perceived by customers as the bank, where customers get more out of their money, ”said Röttele.