24 million contracts affected: Bauspar savers get some money back with a letter
Up to 10 years retrospective: According to a ruling by the Federal Court of Justice, account management fees or service flat rates are not permitted for home savings. Victims can try to get the money back.
Good news for all home savers: building societies are not allowed to charge their customers for account management fees, service flat rates or other annual fees. This is according to a recent judgment of the Federal Court of Justice.
In this case, the Federal Consumer Association (vzbv) had sued the Bausparkasse BHW, which specifically collected an annual fee of 12 euros from its customers for each account in the savings phase. According to estimates by vzbv, the judgment will affect around 24 million home savings contracts in Germany.
The Stiftung Warentest then immediately put together a sample letter (via CHIP.de) that supports those affected in claiming back unlawfully paid fees for the last 10 years. If you stay with the above example, you would get a refund of the 120 euros you paid plus interest.
Since the annual fees are also higher in some cases, for example there are examples with additional costs of 30 euros, the reimbursement can also be significantly higher.
Sample letter returns money
If you are also a building saver, get your contract or annual statements and check how many fees you have paid to the building society in the last 10 years. According to experts, the maximum period applies in this case and not the general limitation period of only 3 years, as is usual with account management fees. Note, however, that this view is legally controversial.
You will find instructions on how to fill it out in the sample letter. Anything in square brackets needs to be supplemented. Once you have determined the fees paid, the rest of the letter is created quickly. The Stiftung Warentest advises sending it to the building society as a normal letter first. If they don’t respond by the deadline, you should use registered mail with acknowledgment of receipt.
If there is still no credit, you should contact an arbitration board. From this point in time, the statute of limitations is also stopped. There is also a corresponding page in the sample letter for contacting the arbitration.
Reaction of building societies
Despite the BGH ruling, the sample letter is not a sure-fire success. The federal office of the Landesbausparkassen explained to the dpa that the clauses “are designed differently for each individual institution and are not easily comparable with one another”. For an assessment of the facts, one waits for the written reasoning of the judgment, which is usually available after a few weeks.
It was to be expected that building societies would not readily reimburse hundreds of euros per contract, at least not without having checked the facts for possible legal weaknesses.
However, the BHW Bausparkasse announced that from now on it would no longer charge an annual fee in the savings phase for all tariffs. “We will check on a case-by-case basis whether customers are entitled to reimbursement,” the building society told dpa.