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Why big banks fail

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A good example of that big bank thinking I referred to yesterday is Santander, and an incident that I fumed about the other day. I usually make payments to EU companies via my business account, which pays no fees on EU payments as per PSD2 and SEPA principles. However, I paid a Polish company £86 the other day from my personal account and only noticed, once the payment was confirmed, that Santander had charged me a £25 fee.


£25 on an £86 payment is a 30% surcharge. Unbelievable.

I fumed about it, as SEPA demands that EU payments are treated the same as domestic payments but, when I looked up the relevant consumer rights, it currently only applies to EU payments in Euros and not between British pounds sterling and Polish Zloty.

Anyways, I shared my frustrations on twitter and the nice Santander social media team decided to step in and help.

I was being the usual Mr. Angry and insisting that they remove the fee as it was illegal under EU law, which it would have been if I were sending GBP to EUR. They insisted the charge was justified, and pointed me to their terms and conditions, page 29.

Page 29 seems to say that any payments in the EU and EEA are treated as international payments, and subject to fees and charges which are not clear, but inflated. SEPA payments I am told will be £10 and international payments £25, even though I’m thinking they’re all EU payments.

I continue to whinge, and the team ask me to email them.



I email them and they ask if they can call me.

I send them my telephone number and they call me.

“Hello”, says a cheery voice, “it’s Ian from the social media team but, before I can talk to you, can you tell me your name, ethnicity, mother’s maiden name, inside leg measurement and blood type?”

I go through the security checks just because I want to hear what Ian has to say about a 30% surcharge fee on an EU payment.

“And finally, can you tell me a standing order or direct debit on your account please, and for how much you pay on that?”

This is tedious.

“Ok, now we can talk”, says Ian, and I think yes, what are you going to say.

“Ok”, Ian says, “you made a payment to Poland which is an international payment”.

“No, it’s not”, I say. “It’s a payment to a European country and as we are still part of Europe should not be exposed to any additional charges.”

“I’m afraid that’s not the case”, says Ian. I fully expect him to tell me about Brexit.

“If you had made the payment via a SEPA transfer, we charge £10”, says Ian, “but you made an international payment and we have a flat fee for those of £25.”

“Well”, say I, “under EU law I think you’re wrong, and I’m going to report you to the Financial Ombudsman”.

“You go ahead and do that sir, and sorry I cannot help”, says Ian.

“You cannot help?” says I, “so why did you call me?”

“To explain the fee”, says Ian.

“Not to waive the fee”, says I.

“No, I’m not authorised to do that”, says Ian.

This typifies the anger that customers have with the big banks. Complete inflexibility, lack of customer focus and wasting their time engaging in a conversation where the person who is trying to help can do feck all.

Rant over. Just saying why I’ve switched to Monzo.

Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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