Maltese banking practices under European Commission scrutiny

The European Commission is scrutinising Maltese banks to ensure that the Payment Accounts Directive is being fully enforced after being petitioned by a British citizen over the difficulty EU citizens face when opening a bank account in Malta.

The directive had to be fully implemented into Maltese legislation by no later than September 2016 but the petitioner, David Reiling, told the Commission that this is still not being implemented and asked the Commission to investigate the matter.

While noting that Malta fully transposed the directive after being sent a formal warning, the Commission said it is currently assessing whether all measures are fully in line with the directive requirements and did not exclude taking enforcement measures.

“Many people who need a local account cannot get one as when they arrive to Malta they do not always have a permanent provable address immediately for various reasons,” the petition reads.

According to the petitioner, this is not ensured even after having obtained a permanent address. The directive gives consumers legally residing in the EU the right to open a bank account provided that they comply with anti-money laundering rules. Such an account provides access to essential payment services, including cash withdrawals, transfers of funds, receiving their salary and pensions and the payment of utility bills.

According to the petitioner the comparability of fees is another area in which Malta fails to deliver.

EU nationals often describe the process of opening a bank account in Malta as “very long” and “frustrating.” The situation for third country nationals is even worse as very often they are denied a bank account by local banks despite holding a residency permit.

Moreover, foreigners, especially from non-EU countries, face burgeoning bureaucracy when applying for a residency permit.

The directive had to be transposed by 18 September 2016 but Malta failed to comply and was sent a Letter of Formal Notice by the Commission on 24 November 2016. On 8 December 2016, the Maltese government informed the Commission that the directive had been fully transposed through a legal notice (LN 411/2016).

While noting this, the Commission said it is currently assessing whether all measures are fully in line with the requirements and said that it was not excluding “that there might be some enforcement issues as mentioned by the petitioner. Against the backdrop of the assessment of the transposition of the Directive the Commission is currently in contact with the Maltese authorities responsible for the enforcement of this Directive.”

                           
                               
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