The French bank Société Générale has been found guilty in the French courts of including unfair clauses in the terms of its contract for a bank account and bank card.
In a judgement rendered by a French High Court, no less than sixteen clauses were considered to be ‘abusives’. Amongst the clauses that the judges found unfair was one that entitled the bank not to issue, or to withdraw the use of a chequebook, without the need to give any reason. Other terms considered unfair were those that exonerated the bank of responsibility for any errors that occurred during the operation of an account, as well as those placing an unfair responsibility on customers in the management of their account. Whilst the bank has the right to appeal against the decision, they have already taken steps to change some of the clauses. At a more general level, there is increasing concern amongst French consumer groups about the increases in bank charges in recent years and the lack of transparency in the explanation of these charges. In a recent gathering between consumer representatives, the banks and the government, to discuss some of their grievances, the consumer representatives left the meeting deeply disgruntled at the apparent unwillingness of the government to exercise greater control over bank charges. Nevertheless, by the standards of many other countries the costs of maintaining a bank account in France are not high, in large measure due to the self same pressure applied by these consumer groups.