Topic Consumer protection Complaints & contacts

Are you having problems with a bank or an insurance undertaking? Not every dispute necessarily has to end up in court. Here, BaFin would like to provide you with information on the various ways in which you can complain about a company. Find out more about what falls within BaFin's remit, the best way to complain and the websites of points of contact.

How to complain to a company

If you have reason for complaint, you should first contact the company itself. When doing so, it is recommended to request a statement or decision from management in writing before taking matters any further. First of all, therefore, you should wait for an answer to your complaint and only after that may BaFin be able to help you further.

How BaFin can help if your complaint is rejected

If your claim is rejected by a company which is subject to supervision by BaFin, you can turn to BaFin. BaFin can examine, for example, whether or not a company is complying with the agreed contractual terms and legal requirements. However, BaFin primarily looks at whether the matter is significant for German supervisory law, and if so to what extent. BaFin is not allowed to provide information about the results of any regulatory examination which may take place, as it is subject to a statutory duty of confidentiality.

Help put a stop to dubious providers

Do you feel you have been badly advised with regard to the purchase of securities such as shares and warrants and have you lost money as a result? Does an offer seem suspicious? Then please write to BaFin and explain the matter. If you have grounds for complaint, BaFin will contact the institution concerned and seek to find out more. Your information can help detect and deal with breaches of the German Securities Trading Act (WertpapierhandelsgesetzWpHG).

Your information about price manipulation or insider trading helps

If you have reason to believe someone has breached the prohibitions on price manipulation or insider trading, please also contact BaFin. If such information or other indications lead to a suspicion of prosecutable insider trading, BaFin will launch an official investigation. If the suspicion is substantiated, BaFin will report the case to the public prosecutor's office.

IBAN discrimination – complaints about infringement of Article 9(2) of the SEPA Regulation

Some companies allow their customers to pay by direct debit, but only using payment accounts held with a credit institution in Germany. This means that cross-border direct debits are rejected by these companies (so-called IBAN discrimination). The Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht – BaFin) has received complaints to this effect.

In BaFin's view, this conduct infringes Article 9(2) of the SEPA Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 260/2012 of 14 March 2012), pursuant to which a company using a direct debit to collect funds may not restrict the process to payment accounts from a particular Member State. Rather, it must allow all payment accounts in the EU which are reachable with the SEPA direct debit scheme. This also applies to payment accounts in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland. BaFin already reported on this issue in the December 2015 edition of BaFinJournal (see p. 41-42 - only available in German).

BaFin can only take action against supervised companies

Although most of the other provisions of the SEPA Regulation only apply to payment service providers, Article 9 of the Regulation is directed at payment service users. However, pursuant to section 4b of the German Act Establishing the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanzdienstleistungsaufsichtsgesetz – FinDAG), BaFin can only process complaints relating to companies which are subject to its supervision. These include for example credit institutions, insurance undertakings and German asset management companies (Kapitalverwaltungsgesellschaften). By contrast, most payment service users (e.g. retailers) are not supervised companies.

Points of contact for complaints

Consumers and companies who wish to complain about a company infringing Article 9 of the SEPA Regulation may contact the SEPA complaints office of the Centre for Protection against Unfair Competition (Zentrale zur Bekämpfung unlauteren Wettbewerbs e.V.).

In addition, a complaint may be addressed to one of the qualified entities pursuant to section 4 of the German Injunctions Act (Unterlassungsklagengesetz – UKlaG). An up-to-date list of these entities (only available in German) may be found on the website of the Federal Office of Justice (Bundesamt für Justiz).

Such complaints may also be submitted to a chamber of industry and commerce, a chamber of trade or an association pursuant to section 3 (1) no. 2 of the UKlaG and section 8 (3) no. 2 of the German Unfair Competition Act (Gesetz gegen unlauteren Wettbewerb – UWG).

Legal limitations concerning complaints to BaFin

Please note that BaFin is subject to legal limitations concerning the processing of complaints. It is only allowed to provide assistance on certain matters.

BaFin cannot give binding rulings on individual disputes. This is a matter for the courts alone. Only a judge can issue binding rulings on controversial points of law and only a judge can impose sanctions such as financial penalties on companies. If you want a judge's decision to be reached in your case, you will have to sue the company in question.

BaFin cannot provide expert opinions on general questions of law either. By law, general legal advice may only be provided by professionals qualified to do so, in particular lawyers. You can get information about this from the German Federal Bar Association (Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer). Consumer protection organisations may also be able to help you.

Make use of out-of-court dispute resolution

You can also lodge a complaint with an out-of-court dispute resolution entity in many cases. Many credit institutions and the majority of insurers in Germany cooperate voluntarily with these private dispute resolution entities and accept their decisions. Ombudspersons are mostly former judges and are independent. They are appointed for a specific period of time. Incidentally, they may not be dismissed prematurely simply because their rulings have gone against a company. You can therefore expect an impartial decision from the out-of-court dispute resolution entity. Names and contact details may be found online, for example on the website of the Association of German Banks (Bankenverband) or of the ombudsman service for insurance undertakings (Ombudsmann für Versicherungen).

updated on: 10.03.2016

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