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July 19, 2022

Polish consumer watchdog presses charges against five banks

Poland’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection has charged five banks with infringement of consumer interest. 

Following a preliminary investigation into unauthorised transactions for a year, the consumer watchdog has pressed charges against Bank Millennium, BNP Paribas Bank Polska, Credit Agricole Bank Polska, mBank and Santander Bank Polska.

The regulator said that the move comes after an analysis of consumer complaints and the lenders’ response to reports of theft of money from consumers’ accounts.

In one of the cases, the fraudster accessed an elderly woman’s credentials and stole savings worth PLN170,000 ($36,662) from the retiree’s account and took out a loan worth PLN 80,000 ($17,252).

The regulator noted that despite the statutory obligation, banks fail to reimburse funds and in the case of loans, push customers who are victims of fraud to pay back the loan. 

The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection president Tomasz Chróstny said: “As a public trust institution, the bank is obliged to take all steps necessary to secure the funds of its customers. In most cases, banks merely execute ordered operations thoughtlessly and do not feel responsible, even though they might have become suspicious just by analysing transactions at its early stage, e.g. due to unusual amounts, currency, made within a short period of time after a change of data or access channels.”

“Meanwhile, banks should be much more proficient in developing mechanisms to identify and react to suspicious operations in good time, if only by using a customer’s existing order history or behavioural biometrics to enhance security even further. 

“Instead, we witness a kind of discretion in rejecting consumers’ complaints, as well as a failure to comply with the law on the reimbursement of funds lost as a result of unauthorised transactions.”

The charges pressed against the banks include failure to refund the amount of unauthorised transactions and misleading consumers in responses to complaints. 

If found guilty of harming consumer interest, the banks face a fine of up to 10% of their turnover. 

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