On 17 December 2020, OKRA the Belgian association for 55 plus users pleads to stop high costs for offline banking. Based on a research carried out earlier this year amongst its members, 93.5% of respondents find it unacceptable that they are charged extra for offline banking. 76% prefer to switch to another bank if no additional chargers were given for offline transactions such as cash withdrawals, physical deposits, and printed statements. OKRA is also concerned that citizens are forced to perform digital banking with more closures of bank branches and ATM machines.
According to an Okra spokesperson, Ellen Ophalvens “Digitalisation is not for everyone. Many older people are used to being served at the counter and still prefer paper communication. This does not mean that they do not have digital skills.”
“There are many who feel unsafe online, due to the numerous internet phishing scams and sometimes there are issues themselves on the online banking platforms. They are not always as accessible for older people.”
Ophalvens rightfully pointed out that this issue also affects other vulnerable groups in our society who cannot keep up with the latest digital developments.
“We are forced to abandon the traditional way of banking” said Johan (a member of OKRA) in Bonheiden during a video interview.
“That traditional offline banking is more expensive than digital banking – is not fair”
OKRA therefore ask that banking costs be spread fairly among all its clients.
“Charges, for example, for print account statements or make a transfer at the counter are excessive. Recent research showed that this can sometimes be up to 12 euros for one transaction. The costs for developing a digital banking platform are not passed on to digital users, but to offline customers. In our opinion, that is unfair.”
Complaints on high bank charges for over-the-counter transactions were also received via the Radio 2 “The inspector” programme. “For 1 simple manual transfer to be done in the bank, the bank dares to ask 6 euros extra and 2 euros if you want to withdraw a sum of cash”, writes Katrien Standaert. “This is really theft and exploitation of the elderly.”
Keep Me Posted EU notes that the Belgian case presented, is a clear example of unfair practices towards the elderly and other vulnerable groups. Protecting non-digital means of communication is the only way to ensure equal access to services for ALL people, regardless of their level of digital access or skills (and in this case, age).