The capital controls imposed and administered by the Greek Government are resulting in distortions that are undermining individual rights and suffocating the market. For example, individuals and companies are being forced to pay hefty fees for transfers between banks, which they are unable to avoid because of the ban on opening new accounts. Furthermore, the comprehensive ban on early repayment of short-term loans or repayment of ‘red’ loans by bank transfer was only partially lifted ten days ago.
These suffocating capital controls are having a devastating impact on businesses and households in Greece.
In addition, banks are charging excessive fees for debit and credit card purchases, exceeding EUR 1.5 per purchase on average, despite the limits of EUR 0.2 and EUR 0.3 respectively applicable from 9 December under Regulation (EU) 2015/715.
In view of this:
1. Has the Commission monitored compliance by Greece with the provisions of Regulation (EU) 2015/715?
2. Has it verified whether the level of banking fees that traders are being forced to pay as a result of capital controls, coupled with the ban on early repayment by bank transfer, is unfair and detrimental to business competitiveness and viability and, if so, what steps will take?
Answer given by Lord Hill on behalf of the Commission
The regulation of interchange fees should not be confused with the regulation of per transaction charges paid by cardholders to their banks for the use of cards. These charges are not regulated at the EU level.
Administrative restrictions on freedom of capital (i.e. capital controls) were implemented in Greece in July 2015, after the extended bank holiday in order to safeguard the stability of the banking system. The aim was to prevent disorderly capital flight while causing the least possible economic damage.
Although capital controls are costly because they hamper economic activity, they may be needed for a certain period of time in order to preserve financial stability. The objective is to maintain them for the shortest time possible, and then to lift them gradually as soon as possible based on an assessment of the liquidity situation of the banks and overall depositor confidence. To that end, in consultation with international partners, the Commission will monitor and analyse closely developments in the banks and the environment in which they operate in Greece, with a view to enabling the gradual relaxation of capital restrictions.