Building society savers can hope for reimbursement


Lerato Khumalo

Consumer protection groups have sued a building society that charges fees during the savings phase – and won. What this means for building society savers.

In the first phase of their building society contract, many customers have so far paid annual fees – but this is not permitted. Building societies are not allowed to charge their customers a flat fee such as an annual fee, even in the savings phase, the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled in the final instance on Tuesday. Such a fee disproportionately disadvantages building society customers because it would pass on the costs of administrative activities to them (case number XI ZR 551/21).

The highest civil judges in Karlsruhe declared a clause in the BHW Bausparkasse building society terms and conditions to be invalid, according to which twelve euros per year are due for each account during the savings phase. The Federal Association of Consumer Organizations (vzbv) filed the lawsuit in order to bring about a fundamental decision.

According to information from industry circles, such fees are widespread during the savings phase. They can also be called account fees or service fees and range from 9 to 24 euros per year.

The BGH ruling could now have an impact across the industry. The vzbv expects that those affected will have claims for reimbursement. Statute of limitations usually have to be observed. The BGH had already decided in 2017 that annual account fees are not permitted for the loan phase of building society contracts.

Building savings for real estate financing is always divided into two major stages:

With the eight state building societies, there are 18 building societies nationwide and almost 24 million building society contracts (as of the end of 2021). This means that every second household has at least one building society contract. Last year alone, 1.4 million new contracts were concluded and more than 40 billion euros in building loans were paid out.