The Charter aims to respond to the ongoing digitalisation of society. Part of the population is struggling with this, and we want to pay attention to that.
The Charter describes the commitment of the banks and the government to provide a solution in terms of payments and money management in the form of a universal banking service (UBS). This will allow non-digital consumers to manage their accounts and organise their payments without technological tools. Many banks today already offer packages including sufficient manual transactions at a reasonable rate, but with the UBS, this offer will now be further extended to most retail banks.
Banks will offer this service at a reasonable rate (see below) and will inform consumers even better about the offer and associated fees. This transparency should lead to even better choices by consumers. In addition to the existing comparison tools, the government will provide additional comparison tools and online rate simulators, based on input provided by the banks.
Every bank has a bank switching service and the government and banks will make necessary efforts to further increase its disclosure.
In addition, the government and the banking sector will continue efforts to close the digital divide as much as possible. The government will also greatly expand electronic payments so that consumers have the option to pay cashless whenever they want.
A universal banking service is a package that includes at least the following services for the current account for individuals:
At least 60 manual transactions per year (for example: paper-based transfers to be deposited at the bank branch and, if the branch infrastructure allows this, over-the counter cash withdrawals)
A debit card
At least 24 cash withdrawals at the ATM of the bank where the account is held
ATMs of the alliance of the 4 banks, being Belfius, BNP Paribas Fortis, ING and KBC (Batopin) are considered as 'ATM of the bank where the account is held' for the clients of these banks
Printing of account statements at the self-service kiosks in the bank branch, monthly over-the counter cash withdrawals (if this service is offered by the bank) or monthly dispatch at the customer’s request as stated in the fee information documents.
This is the UBS's minimum package. Additional services can be added to this. These vary depending on the bank in question.
The UBS is there for anyone who wants it. There are no legal conditions. Any customer who, for whatever reason, cannot access the online applications offered by banks can use the UBS.
The UBS has a maximum flat fee of EUR 60 per year, possibly supplemented by a monthly fee for sending account statements.
This maximum cost applies for the term (see below) of the Charter. If a bank charges less than EUR 60, the fee can increase by a maximum of EUR 6 per year during the term. Any price increase can never result in a rate exceeding EUR 60 per year.
If the number of manual transactions exceeds a predetermined number (minimum 60), the price per additional transaction is a maximum of EUR 1.
If the bank does not have ATMs to provide paper statements, the customer may opt for monthly postal dispatch. This is at the customer's expense. Banks may charge, in addition to postage, a reasonable cost for the monthly mailing of the statements. This reasonable cost is fixed as follows:
A monthly subscription cost not exceeding EUR 2.50 (including postage);
A maximum cost of EUR 1 per envelope + postage;
A limited flat-rate annual cost of a maximum of EUR 5 + postage.
Occasional charges - e.g. re-offering a direct debit in case of insufficient commission on the current account or requesting a new debit card - are not included in the price of the UBS.
A basic banking service is regulated by law and therefore subject to conditions. It gives substance to the 'right to a checking account' with banks offering this type of account to consumers. One of the conditions is that the customer does not have a current account with another bank and has no other accounts with more than EUR 6,000. The current account granted under the basic banking service cannot go into the red.
The UBS is not regulated by law and is therefore not subject to legal conditions. It is a minimal offer that banks can supplement with additional services with which they can compete. The limitation of one current account and a maximum amount do not apply.
The Charter takes effect from 19 July 2021 and is valid for a period of three years (until 30 June 2024). Banks aim to include the UBS in their offerings by 1 January 2022.