I had no plans to write this post and the idea for it didn’t even cross my mind in my wildest nightmares, but due to an incredible sequence of events which lead to it, here it is. I’ll keep the intro short since the description of the events might take a few paragraphs. However, in order to fully comprehend the events I experienced with a major European bank – which I’m describing below – please do watch Idiocracy first. The only difference between the SF movie and my experience is that all the events I’m describing below have actually happened to me in real life, in between 21.May.2018 and today 08.July.2018. Also, at the time of this writing, the saga continues (I will update this as new events unfold).
On 21.05.18 at about 14:00 I walked into the bank’s main branch and I asked the bank consultant to open a startup account for my newly registered firm. The consultant said to me with a patronizing attitude that she doesn’t deal with small companies and that she can’t open an account for my new firm. So I was refused service because I was a startup and not a medium to large firm..
On 21.05.18 at about 14:30 I walked into the second branch of this EU bank and I was politely greeted by an assistant who proved to be more than happy to open a startup account for my firm. Since I had with me all the original registration documents for my firm (received directly from ONRC = the National Trade Register Office), I handed them to the bank assistant. She took copies of all the necessary documents and then she returned the original ones back to me. Up until this point, everything was going well and just as expected. However, from the moment we moved on to the contract (which was only on her computer screen), things started drifting in the wrong direction (I didn’t realize this at the time, only in hindsight after I experienced the consequences of their so many errors and abuses). Main points which prove their unprofessionalism:
- In the beginning, I wasn’t given a contract to read and fill in because the contract was only on the computer screen of the bank assistant, and she was reading to me only the options she wanted answers to. This deprived me of the full understanding in advance of the requirements and the context.
- Strangely enough, in order to open a bank account for my firm, I had to agree to a personal contract with the bank (between me as a person and the bank, not between my firm and the bank), and I had to hand them all my personal identification data. (This was not optional)
- After I’ve given them my personal ID data, I had to repeat myself 3 times (!) that I do NOT want to sign up for any of their 5(!) marketing and data analysis options.
- The first bank assistant, called another colleague to help her open the account for me and now there were 2 bank assistants working through the options on the digital contract. Despite this extra help, the two of them still printed the contract with 1 option for credit (loans) checked YES. Since I specifically told them that I DO NOT want to borrow money from them, I had to cross off this option with my pen.
- Only after we finished with the personal contract, we moved on to the business contract between the bank and my firm. This contract had only 5 pages in total, but it referenced a lot of other document packs which I was not given to read and agree before signing. I signed the contract on 21.05.18
- After I’ve given them all the documents they requested, and after I signed all the documents they gave me to sign, the bank assistants have confirmed that my account is active and they handed me the business VISA bank card. However 3 days later they called me back into the bank to inform me that the account has not been activated because of that credit option. Details below.
On 24.05.18 I returned to the bank. Main points which prove their unprofessionalism:
- The bank assistant told me that their central office in Bucharest has rejected the contract we signed on 21.05 because in their computer the option was YES for credit check and on the paper contract it was marked no. So we had to sign a new contract. Now instead of correctly marking my NO option in their system and then printing another contract with the option marked as NO, she printed the same contract with a blank date and with the option for credit check marked as YES.
- Then the bank assistant asked me to mark that option which I do not want with a pen and then sign next to it. So I crossed over YES and I clearly marked the NO option. Then I signed next to my writing. However, the pen I was using apparently wasn’t good enough and the bank assistant asked me to sign with a better pen. So I asked her for her pen and I signed again on the paper with her pen. This was now deemed to be acceptable and we signed this 2nd contract on 24.05.18.
- After the central office accepted this 2nd contract, the local office confirmed with me that my new business account is active and in order. However, this proved to be another bank mistake/failure/lie as described below.
On 29.05.18, after confirming with the local bank office that everything is OK with my account, I deposited a sum of money into my firm’s new business account. Let’s call it sum42. The account updated with this sum and everything proved to be in order.
On 31.05.18 at 18:24 I received an email from the bank informing me that they are missing some documents from my business account. Main points which prove their unprofessionalism:
- The email arrived at the end of the business day and before the June bank holiday weekend.
- The email did not mention what document(s) they are missing.
- The email referenced a business email address for further questions – to which I sent multiple emails, but as seen below, they have not replied until 25.06.18 – over 3 weeks later.
On 31.05.18 at 18:38 I replied and I emailed the business email addresses of the bank. I thanked them for the info, and I asked them to confirm specifically what other documents they require.
- Up until 25.06.18, I received no answer from the bank.
On 05.06.18 I sent them another email to the two email addresses of the bank for business customers (referenced in the bank email I received).
- Up until 25.06.18, I received no answer from the bank.
On 17.06.18 at 04:53AM I received another automated email from the bank. Main points which prove their unprofessionalism:
- The bank ignored my request for details regarding the name or type of documents they need.
- The bank has threatened me that if I don’t give them these mysterious document(s), they will block my account on 26.06.18.
On 18.06.18 I sent a 3rd email to the bank and I asked them for what document(s) they need. I also attached the other 2 emails I sent them – to which I received no reply. In my 3rd email, I mentioned that I am very offended by their threat to block my business account with my firm’s private money in the account, and given their ignorance and lack of 2-way communications, I will report them to their EU headquarters.
- My email was ignored until 25.06.18 – this was 1 day before my business account was scheduled to be blocked – and only after I went into the bank branch and spoke to the bank manager.
On 25.06.18 in the morning, I drove back to the bank branch where I opened my account and I asked to speak to the manager. Main points which prove their unprofessionalism:
- The bank manager didn’t know what was going on and he asked me for 20-30min to investigate. Fair enough. Before I walked out he asked me where was I an employee of the bank (!!?). I confirmed with him that I am NOT an employee of the bank and I asked him whats with this strange question.
- The bank manager confirmed with me that my business account was opened as an account for a bank employee and he needs time to sort it out.
- After he called me back into the bank, he apologized to me for the inconvenience caused to me by the bank, and he confirmed with me that he sorted out the technical error with my account, and he spoke to the people in the central office in Bucharest and that my business account will NOT be blocked the next day on 26.06.18. – This proved to be another bank mistake/failure/lie.
- At the end of our meeting, the bank manager also handed me the document the bank wanted but failed to provide specific info about it. This was the first time a bank official showed me the document they wanted: a GAA document (from The General Assembly of the Associates) which proves that I am the entitled Administrator of my company in all dealings with the bank.
- This document was NOT given to me on 21.05.18 when I opened the account.
- I should have received this document with weeks in advance of the account block date (which was only 24h away at the time when I received it).
- The requirements of this (useless) bank document have already been legally proven by the official business documentation from the National Trade Registration Office (ONRC), including article 22 from my company act – which clearly states that I am the unique Administrator of my firm with full and unlimited powers in all internal company matters and in all company dealings with all 3rd parties.
- Therefore blocking a business account with private money in it, for lacking a document which the ONRC has already legally provided, it’s not just abusive and immoral, but its plain brainless (and potentially illegal).
On 25.06.18 in the afternoon, at 14:21, I finally received a reply from the bank’s central office in Bucharest.
- The reply failed to inform me with the name of the Romanian or EU laws and/or directives which gives the bank the right to block my account (also considering I or my firm have not broken any laws and the bank has no blocking order in place from a Romanian or EU Authority).
- The email from the bank simply informed me of the general T&C of the bank which started with “The bank has the right to….” (but without mentioning the laws and directives which give them such rights)
On 25.06.18 in the evening, at 21:08, I replied to the email I received from Bucharest and I also cc’ed the local bank manager which gave me his card during our meeting. I informed them that I am very disappointed with their terrible customer service and with their unprofessionalism. I also mentioned that they wasted countless hours of my time due to their own mistakes/failures. In the end I mentioned that I was a happy customer of their brand in Germany and I gave them a KPI for comparison with their sister office in Germany which constantly receives stellar feedback from its EU customers.
- I’ve received no reply to this email.
On 27.06.18 at 04:33AM, I received an automated email from the bank.
- The bank informed me that it has blocked my account – with my firm’s private money in the account (sum42).
- In between 29.05.18 and 27.06.18 there was only 1 transaction on the account: my deposit of sum42. There were no other transactions up until this date.
On 27.06.18 at 08:19AM, I emailed the local bank manager and the central office in Bucharest. I expressed my deepest regret in opening an account at their unprofessional bank and I informed them of my decision to close the account effective immediately.
- I’ve received the reply below on 28.06.18.
On 28.06.18 at 12:53PM, I received a reply from the bank’s office in Bucharest:
- The bank completely ignored my requests for legal information which give them the right to block my firm’s private money (sum42) onto their banking network.
- The bank completely ignored my request to close my account.
- The bank simply asked for the GAA document which proves that I am the entitled Administrator of my company in all dealings with the bank – the document I only received from the bank manager on 25.06.18 and which is a duplicate of the official legal documentation from the National Trade Registration Office (ONRC).
On 28.06.18 at 13:00 I called the lady who sent me the email from the bank’s central office in Bucharest. However, I was told she is not available and I was asked to leave a message. I left a message with one of her colleagues: calmly and very politely I asked him to tell her that after wasting so much of my time and resources, I had enough of this bank and the only thing I’d like to do is close my account and recover my money (sum42). The man I spoke to confirmed that he received the message and that he will tell her to call me back.
- Up until today, nobody called me from the bank’s central office in Bucharest.
On 30.06.18 the bank took money from my account without my knowledge or authorization:
- The bank charged commissions for account usage, despite their advertised free commision for startups in the first year.
- Therefore the bank not only blocked my access to my firm’s private money, but the bank took money out of my blocked account without my knowledge, without my permission and by infringing their own contract and advertised product…
On 02.07.18 I emailed the central office in Bucharest and the local bank manager and I asked them to confirm with me when can I withdraw my money and close my account.
- Up until today, I’ve not received a reply from the bank.
On 05.07.18 I walked into the local branch where I opened my account on 21.05.18, and I asked the bank assistant to call the manager. She told me that he is not in the office and she offered to help. I asked her to close my account. Such a simple request turned into the following sequence of events:
- The bank assistant confirmed with me that she can’t close the account because the bank doesn’t have the GAA document (mentioned above). I told her that the document they are asking for should have been given to me on 21.05.18 or on 24.05.18 when I opened the account. Considering I haven’t received this document until after I wasted considerable resources and after I received messages from the bank which stopped me from using the account (that’s why I had no other transaction on it), now its too late because I had enough and I just want to close the account.
- I also mentioned to her what I wrote in the emails above that this document is an unofficial duplicate of the official and legal documents from the National Trade Registration Office (ONRC). I told her that I lost my trust in them and I don’t want to continue to use the account, I just want to close it and receive my money back.
- The bank assistant understood but she said that she can’t do anything because the central office in Bucharest won’t allow her to close the account without that GAA document.
- Since the bank refused to close the account, I asked her how much more interest/commission will I get charged if I withdraw cash at the ATM. She confirmed the commission as 0.35% – I agreed to pay that and just “present” the bank 100RON just so I can withdraw the remainder of my money.
- However, to my utter shock, the ATM rejected my request and I couldn’t withdraw any money from my firm’s account. The bank assistant received a confirmation from the central office that withdrawals are also blocked.
- At this stage, I told the bank assistant that if the bank doesn’ return my money, I will consider it fraud/embezzlement and I will report this law infringement to the police and the national financial authority.
- Shortly after she called her boss, I received a call from the bank manager (the one who stopped me from closing my account and withdrawing my money on 25.06.18 – before the bank blocked my account). The bank manager tried to put the blame on me that I am at fault for not providing them with the document they needed. After I reminded him of my numerous emails sent to the bank and numerous requests for information which were ignored, I agreed with him that it is the bank’s fault. After this, I asked him to unlock my account so I can withdraw my firm’s private money, or else I will report them to the police. At this stage, the manager asked me to “remain friends because its better for us”…and to be honest he sounded like a local baron of sorts. However, I told him that we have never been friends and I want no personal relationship with him. I simply request that he fulfills his duties as the bank representative and serves me as the bank customer for the last day. He agreed.
- After my call, the bank assistant has presented me with a document which she filled in with her presumed reason why I’m closing the account (without my permission) which stated that I’m closing the account “because my firm doesn’t need it anymore” – I did not agree to this because the reason why I want the account closed has to do 100% with the bank’s unprofessionalism which made me waste a lot of time and resources and business opportunities.
- Also, on the same document, printed in a grammatically incorrect Romanian, there was a text which stated that I give the bank permission to keep the account open if there is a restriction on the account. Therefore I refused to sign this document which clearly authorized the bank to keep the account open.
- After I refused to sign the bank’s filled-in document, I took a pen and I wrote a letter of request to the bank and I asked the bank to amiably close my account and return my firm’s private funds. Since I was informed that this request may take a few hours, I left the bank and awaited the call from the bank assistant.
- A couple of hours later, still on 05.07.18, the bank assistant called me to inform me that my handwritten application was rejected by the bank’s central office in Bucharest. She confirmed that the only way I can have my account closed and the remaining of my funds returned is by signing their own (abusive) document – which in this case actually voids itself due to the additional printed text on it.
The direct experience with the bank stops here for now. However, I will continue writing on the timeline as other events develop.
On 05.07.18 in between 15:00 and 17:00 I visited all the relevant local authorities with the intention to ask for information regarding the legality of the bank’s actions, to file a complaint if the bank is found to be infringing the law, and to ask for advice on how can I recover my firm’s private money from the bank:
- National Authority for Consumer Protection, National Agency for Fiscal Administration, Local County Council, The Police, Customs and the Anti-Fraud squad. All these agencies have told me that banking fraud is not within their authority unless the law infringement is done TO the bank, not BY the bank. So I was advised to contact the Romanian National Bank (BNR).
On 05.07.18 at 16:50 I called the regional office of BNR but I was told to call again in the morning because there’s nobody there to speak to me about this issue.
On 06.07.18 at 10:30AM I called again the regional office of BNR. I was told that they don’t have a private banking authority office there and I was given 2 numbers from BNR central office in Bucharest. I called one of the BNR numbers and I got through to their central telecoms office. From there I was transferred to “Directia Supraveghere” (Supervision Office). The lady from DS told me that they don’t deal with this particular bank and that she will transfer me to the inspector who deals with this bank. I thanked her and waited to be transferred. After a few rings, someone picked up and when I asked if he is the inspector from the banking authority which deals with this troublesome bank, he replied with: “No, this office is redecorating, try again next week”.
On 06.07.18 in the morning, I called asfromania.ro – which is the Financial Supervision Authority. After I briefly started to explain what happened, the gentleman stopped me and said that they don’t deal with these kinds of issues. He said that they deal with the banks only on stock and capital markets. He also advised me to call CSALB.ro I thanked him and I called the main number of the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre. The number rang busy.
After I ran out of available national authorities and none could help me recover my firm’s private money from this major EU bank, I decided to search on the EU website. Here is what I found: The European Banking Authority: https://www.eba.europa.eu Now, they are exactly what I was looking for – but at a national level. So after I searched their website a bit, I found a page which lists the national banking authorities in the EU which are its counterparts at each EU country’s level. When I landed on this page I thought that all my problems will be solved in a flash – well that was until I saw the list for Romania, which included only 1 entry for ANPC…which is the National Authority for Consumer Protection and while I’ve heard they are good at what they do, they do NOT accept complaints from companies, they do NOT accept firms as customers, and also do NOT have any authority over financial institutions (i.e. they literally can’t police the banks, nor the non-banking financial institutions).
- I am genuinely wondering why isn’t the Romanian Central Bank (BNR) listed there, or the Romanian Ministry for Finance or the Revenue or the Economic Police!??
Today is 08.07.18 and I am in limbo with the private money I deposited in my business bank account of this particular troublesome bank. In between 21.05.18 and today, I have wasted countless hours and resources due to the bank’s unprofessionalism. After going through all that, and after being willing to just give the bank 100RON to recover the rest of my company’s money, I’m still stuck because my firm’s money is still blocked by this bank and I can’t find an institution who can investigate the legality of what the bank is doing to me and my firm. Therefore if someone has any ideas on how I can get this sorted at EU-level (or preferably national level), please contact me privately. Thank you!
PS: I obviously have hard proof for all of the above (documents, emails, pictures).
To be continued…