Purchasing power: encouraged to act, banks commit cheaply

Pushed by the government to make a gesture in favor of the purchasing power of the French, the banks are dragging their feet and right now they are focusing their attention on the most fragile, at a low cost.

The Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale, which brings together 14 of the 18 federations of the mutualist group, fired on the first Wednesday by announcing “an account at 1 euro net per month without ancillary costs”, for customers “in financial difficulty”.

Société Générale, for its part, followed the movement by also announcing the reduction of its offer to fragile customers from 3 euros, the legal maximum, to one euro.

The bank with the Rossoneri logo also announced the implementation of student loans at cost price, ie without margin for the bank, at the beginning of the school year, as well as an “overall price stability” for next year, assuming the responsibility for inflation, which reached 5.8% yoy in June.

This offer can be seen as a response to the request made at the end of May by the Minister of Economy, Bruno Le Maire.

“We have integrated this request from Bercy to pay attention to purchasing power in our reflections,” acknowledges Marie-Christine Ducholet, director of retail banking in France for the group. However, he added, there is no common position among banks on the issue, as happened after the yellow vest crisis, when institutions pledged with the government to freeze tariffs for 2019 and limit accident costs for banks. most vulnerable customers.

Contacted by the AFP, the Ministry of Economy judged that these latest announcements were “in the right direction”, reserving, however, to make “a point at the beginning of the school year”.

The other banking groups, for their part, recalled the initiatives already launched in recent months: direct debit refused in the event that it is the second of the same operator within a few days of each other for La Banque Postale or offers rental cars with option to purchase over 10 years for low-income families from BNP Paribas.

– A few million a year –

In detail, if the provision of an unlimited number of bank checks and the possibility of overdraft (after studying the dossier) proposed by Crédit Mutuel has a rather better price than the rest of the market, where the offer reserved for limited fragile customers remains, the price of one euro is far from unprecedented.

“We had already identified establishments that went beyond what is required by the law”, confirms to AFP Sandrine Perrois, lawyer of CLCV, an association for the defense of consumers.

Some Crédit Agricole funds, for example, already charged free accident costs, while other regional funds offer current accounts for one euro … but for all customers.

Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale’s offer will apply to 50,000 vulnerable customers and that of Société Générale to 55,000 customers, out of a total of 13 million and 7.3 million customers respectively.

The announced cost of the operation: “from 3 to 4 million euros per year”, taking into account the decrease in the costs of free accidents, according to Daniel Baal, managing director of the Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale.

For Société Générale, the bill should be around 1.3 million euros per year.

“After all, it’s not very expensive,” comments Eric Dor, director of economic studies at the IESEG business school, who notes that European banks will still earn several billion euros by the end of 2024 on loans granted by the European Central Bank ( ECB).

– Invest by making a gesture –

And the boundary between commercial gesture and investment is sometimes narrow.

As for student loans at cost, “we do it with very attractive loans, but in fact, one day, we hope that some of them will stay with us, and we wish them success in their studies and earnings”. admits Marie-Christine Ducholet.

The “tariff moderation” underway since the yellow vest crisis remains, and should continue, according to Crédit Mutuel.

A decline in inflation times that cannot be recovered in subsequent years, underlines the bank.

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