FAZ.Net: Investors hit back
Beitrag/Posting von G.C.Renner am 15. Februar 2005 15:06:11:
Investors hit back
Bank customers vent frustration over bad deals on the Web
28. Januar 2005 By Christian von Hiller
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
A red Opel Kadett parked at various places around the city of Frankfurt has irritated quite a few Deutsche Bank managers of late. These days, the car is often found outside the office building of DWS, the fund management subsidiary of Deutsche Bank. ”Never again! Deutsche Bank or its partners,” is written in big, bright letters on the vehicle, as is an address of an Internet site for disgruntled Deutsche Bank customers. Frank Schmall owns five such cars, which he regularly parks outside a Deutsche Bank branch office somewhere in the state of Hesse, or occasionally outside the head office of Frankfurt Stock Exchange operator Deutsche Börse.
”I'll continue my car campaign for at least another five years,” says Schmall - much to the dismay of Deutsche Bank, which has tried to hide the cars behind large posters.
Schmall feels defrauded by Deutsche Bank ever since he bought an apartment in an old people's home in Worms. He has been suing Deutsche Bank since 1997 together with 140 other owners of the complex - so far to no avail.
”We keep losing,” Schmall admits, although this does not stop him from organizing new campaigns against Deutsche Bank - and demanding that the bank pay him back €125,000. ”My Kadett is up for sale, too,” says Schmall. ”In a package with an apartment in Worms it can be had for €127,000.”
Thanks to the Internet, more and more bank customers are joining forces to campaign against the bank. Investors who lost money on real estate, in particular, exchange their experiences on Internet sites such as www.immobilienbetrug.de and www.bankopfer.de. Many are embarrassed about their poor investment. Others say they have considered suicide. On one Web site, investors accuse the home loans and savings association Badenia of being responsible for a woman's suicide in autumn 2004 because she was persuaded to invest in a loss-making real estate project in Chemnitz. Badenia rejects the accusations, arguing that it merely provided the financing but did not market the property.
Real estate business is not the only contentious issue between banks and their retail customers. For example, other private borrowers complain that the terms for variable interest financing are raised with reference to ”general interest rate developments,” although interest rates on the financial markets have actually dropped. Or customers who are having their life insurance policies paid out receive investment proposals that benefit above all the bank and its advisers.
”The banks realize that large profits can be reaped in the retail business,” says Frankfurt bank consultant Christoph Pape. ”That heats up competition over retail customers so much that the banks increasingly resort to undifferentiated power selling.” Rather than being offered holistic solutions, he says, customers increasingly face annoying telephone product sales. ”That also means that the products sold through customer advisory are not necessarily in the customer's interest,” says Pape.
All banks are currently trying to intensify their customer relations. New customers are lured partly with high-interest call-money accounts. Cross selling is the next step. That means that the banks try to sell the customer additional banking products.
Even sales staff from respected institutions who advise wealthy private customers report that they are given concrete sales targets, meaning that they have to sell, for example, a certain volume of hedge funds during a certain period of time.
The result is that the relationship between customers and banks is increasingly becoming business terrain for lawyers. ”A bank is only liable for the products it actually markets,” says the banking expert of a Frankfurt law firm. Lawyers dealing with thousands of cases of real estate investments are thus currently trying to determine whether the bank in question merely provided the financing or also marketed the investment.