Brussels to clamp down on bank transfer charges

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The European Commission has finally lost patience with banks in the 12 eurozone countries and the excessive charges they place on moving money around.

Spurred on by the disappointing results of one of its own banking surveys published yesterday, the commission will propose a new law by the end of the month clamping down on the transfer payments.

The survey, which found bank fees for cross-border transfers were not only too high, but increasing, "was the straw that broke the camel's back", said Jonathan Todd, the commission spokesman on the single market.

Banks argue that there are administrative costs in transferring money from one country to another, regardless of the currency, but the Commission claims the banks have had long enough to iron out these problems. "We've been discussing this problem with the banking sector for around 15 years now, and it's a great disappointment that these contacts have not resulted in any meaningful reduction in the charges," Mr Todd added.

The aim is to bring cross-border rates down to the same level as banks charge domestically. On average shifting 100 euros from one eurozone country to another costs 17.36 euros, the commission survey found. But this figure masks huge differences; transferring 100 euros from Portugal can incur a 31 euros fee.

The Portuguese also charge the most for using their bank machines, heaping a 5.38 per cent charge on a 100 euro withdrawal.