Consumers’ Association hits out at HSBC €5 fee for banking services

Consumers’ Association says HSBC charging €5 fee on banking services for clients without minimum €1,250-€2,300 quarterly deposit

HSBC €5 charge for customers who fail to deposit specific amount over three months is condemned by Consumer Association
HSBC €5 charge for customers who fail to deposit specific amount over three months is condemned by Consumer Association

Updated at 6:00 pm with HSBC reaction 

The Consumers’ Association has condemned a €5 fee for banking services by HSBC Malta, which it said targeted low-income earners and pensioners unfairly. 

In a statement on Thursday, the association said HSBC customers received a note from the bank, informing them that if they do not deposit an amount of €2,300 over a period of three months they will incur a €5 fee. Those aged 61 or more will have to deposit at least €1,250 to avoid the fee.

“We have a situation where the interest that banks give to consumers is ridiculous while they use consumers' money to lend and earn much higher interest than that give to depositors,” the CA said.

The association warned that soon additional charges could also be put into place to use the bank. “The biggest negative impact will be on those most vulnerable consumers. This will have an impact on those consumers whose income goes directly into an account of another bank.”

In the last few years, HSBC has closed at least eight branches including Mellieħa, San Ġwann, Żabbar, Żebbuġ and Bormla. In 2019, Bormla pensioners had expressed their disappointment at the move to MaltaToday. The closure forced residents in the whole Cottonera area to use the branch in Paola.

The association warned that the move by HSBC would encourage other banks to do the same, and complained that consumers are not being given information by the MFSA about charges and the interests that banks offer. “It is difficult for a consumer to use a bank that gives them the most interest and charges them the least. The situation reduces competition between banks,” the association said.

The association said that banks cannot continue to bear no social responsibility, and only protect their interests while oppressing the most vulnerable consumers.

HSBC reaction 

Reacting to the outcry, an HSBC spokesperson said the cost of providing its services has increased significantly. 

He said the fee will only be charged to customers who pay in a minimum of €2,300 (€1,250 if 61 years old or over) over a three-month period into any of their current or savings accounts held with HSBC.

The spokesperson said the fee will not apply to customers with a loan or wealth investment product through HSBC, customers who pay the monthly HSBC advance fee, students or minors, new customers up to six months from when their account was set up, and members of a joint-account where one of the members meets the above criteria. 

“The majority of our existing customers are expected to meet one of the exemption criteria set out in our terms and conditions,” he said 

The monthly fee will also not apply to low-earners or pensioners where their associated income is credited into their HSBC account. 

“HSBC Malta has sought to ensure that the income exemption criteria is achievable by all customers,” he said. 

In addition, customers who are receiving disability or medical sickness benefits or unemployment government assistance into their HSBC accounts will also not be in scope for this fee. 

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