This deadline expires at the end of 2022


Lerato Khumalo

The Federal Court of Justice has ruled that account fees are not permitted during the savings phase of building society contracts. However, a deadline expires at the end of 2022.

Many building societies charge their customers flat fees for account management. It has recently become clear that this is not only prohibited in the loan phase, but also in the savings phase.

The Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled that such a fee would disproportionately disadvantage building society savers because it would pass on the costs of administrative activities to them. You can read more about this here.

But how do people saving for a building society get their hands on the money they overpaid? Is it enough to wait for the building society to take action? No, say experts.

“Anyone who has paid such a fee should request it back in writing from their building society,” says Hermann-Josef Tenhagen, editor-in-chief of the consumer portal “Finanztip”, t-online. “This is possible retroactively for three years.”

The consumer advice centers also recommend actively filing an objection and demanding a refund of any account fees paid. “Make sure that you can prove that your objection was received,” says the website of the consumer advocates who got the process rolling with their lawsuit against Bausparkasse BHW in the first place. The objection should be made in writing – ideally by registered mail or as a verifiable fax.

You can check whether you paid account management fees during the savings phase by looking at the annual account statements for your building society account. Other terms for this are service fee, service charge or annual fee.

The money is always debited once a year, right at the beginning of the year. Depending on the building society, you pay between 9 and 30 euros. Read here exactly how a building society contract works.

The ruling initially only applies to the BHW building society. However, decisions by the Federal Court of Justice usually have a signaling effect for other courts. Many building societies are currently relying on the outstanding reasons for the ruling before complying with a demand for repayment.

Due to the limitation period, you can still claim back fees that you paid in 2019 or later. For 2019, the deadline is December 31, 2022. You can also claim interest of 5 percentage points above the base interest rate per year from your building society.

You can find a sample letter for the reclaim of account fees during the savings phase on the consumer advice center website, for example.

It is irrelevant whether you have already terminated your building society contract. Even if it is dormant or ready for allocation, you are still entitled to receive a refund of any fees you have paid in excess.

You cannot claim back closing fees that are due at the beginning of the savings phase. The so-called premium at the beginning of the credit phase is also permitted. You can read more about the premium here.

It is still unclear whether the ruling also applies to building savings contracts with Wohnriester. Riester contracts are generally allowed to include administration costs. However, you should still try to get the fees back.

If your building society refuses to refund the money, you can contact an ombudsman. A procedure will then start that will also delay the statute of limitations. You can then get fees from 2019 back even after December 31, 2022. The ombudsman procedure is free of charge for you.

Depending on the type of building society, different arbitration bodies are responsible. Customers of private building societies should contact the customer complaints office at the Association of Private Building Societies, customers of state building societies should contact the Customer Complaints Office at the Federal Association of Public Banks.

Ideally, the building society will accept the ombudsman’s offer of mediation. If it does not, the only option is to file a lawsuit.

Including the 8 state building societies, there are 18 building societies nationwide and almost 24 million building savings contracts. This means that every second household has at least one building savings contract. Last year alone, 1.4 million new contracts were concluded and more than 40 billion euros in building loans were paid out.