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Current accounts – Continued use does not constitute automatic consent to the new GTCs

Many banks and Sparkassen [savings banks] have been trying for months to enforce their new terms and conditions. Recently, the Hanover regional court decided that continued use of a current account does not constitute automatic consent to new contractual terms and conditions.

In mid-2022, a German cooperative bank sent to its customers a written request for explicit consent to its new contractual terms and conditions. Those customers who did not respond to this were subsequently sent another letter in which the cooperative bank informed them that future use of their accounts would be deemed to be consent. This would apply to electronic transfers, ATM withdrawals and cashless payments. The Federation of German Consumer Organisations became aware of these business practices. Thereupon, it took legal action against the cooperative bank and was successful in obtaining a cease-and-desist order. 

Even in the eyes of the judges at the Hanover regional court (ruling of 28.11.2022, case reference: 13 O 173/22) the actions of the bank clearly constituted a clear violation of competition rules. Moreover, they violated the basic principles of contract law and unreasonably disadvantaged consumers. 

Outcome: Therefore, by continuing to use their accounts the bank’s customers would not automatically consent to the contractual amendments. The contractual terms and conditions can only be changed with the explicit consent of the other contractual partner. 

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