BOI: Bank fee packages to hold steady

While representatives of the banks told the Knesset committee that the majority of their household customers had opted for one of the two tracks, the Bank of Israel said that no official count is being kept.

By DANIEL KENNEMER
May 23, 2006 08:54
2 minute read.
bank teller 88

bank teller 88. (photo credit: )

Key parts of a deal that gave customers more affordable fee packages on banking transactions are not up for discussion, Banking Supervisor Yoav Lehman told the Knesset Economic Committee Monday. "The primary and principled components of the arrangements set down in the package deal [signed with the banks a year ago] - making it easier for [customers] to move [their accounts] from bank to bank and a discounted basic track for managing checking accounts for households - are not temporary in nature and there is no reason for them to be ended," Lehman said, referring to their integration into law since the agreement. When signed between Lehman and each of the banks on June 1, 2005, the agreement was scheduled to be reconsidered and possibly altered one year later. With just days remaining until the deal expires, Lehman said that no bank had contacted his office to request changes. The agreement required the country's commercial banks to offer customers two standard service packages alongside each bank's own offerings: a NIS 10 per month basic package and a NIS 18 per month deal that includes additional services. Both are less expensive than the banks' own tracks, but also less complex and with fewer services included, a source in the sector said. Less expensive banking and greater mobility between banks "constitute an important and enduring foundation for reinforcing competition between the banks, for the good of the customers," Lehman said, adding that some of the fees are now regulated by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, and require the ministry's approval for any changes. The banks most likely would continue to offer the agreed packages to customers even if they had not been etched into law, since Lehman said the packages "are worthwhile for the banks as well" and help them compete for different markets. The committee met to discuss the matter following a press report that the banks were planning to raise commissions once the deal technically expires at the end of the month. Banking sector sources, however, said the banks had not planned to raise rates, and that no internal discussions have been held on the matter, blaming the panic on what they said was a false report in the Hebrew press. "The matter had in any event not come up on [the bank management's] agenda," said Bank Hapoalim spokeswoman Ofra Preuss. While representatives of the banks told the Knesset committee that the majority of their household customers had opted for one of the two tracks, the Bank of Israel said that no official count is being kept. Lehman called the lower costs of the packages offered through the agreement for bank customers who make few actions on their accounts "a vital element" that ensures the ability of poorer customers to "realize their basic right to manage a bank account."


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