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In a recent article[1], Michel Rouger, President of Presaje, pointed out with his usual finesse that “the feeling has taken hold that the bank treats its customer as a user of its services, whereas the administration tends to treat its users with the face of the customer. The massive use of modern technologies by both seems to have had the opposite effect, distancing the bank from its customer and bringing the administration closer to the user.

If we go into the law and the procedures applicable to the relations that both parties have with their users/customers, Michel Rouger’s remark takes on a singular scope.

THE TAXPAYER AS A CLIENT OF THE ADMINISTRATION

The long-term evolution of the financial administrations, which have become the sole Directorate General of Public Finance since last year, has been one of significant improvement in the rights of taxpayers and the service provided to them:

Improving taxpayer rights

Since the “Charte du contribuable vérifié” launched by the Aicardi Commission in 1987, measures have been developed to guarantee taxpayers’ rights. On the basis of the Fouquet report published last year, the Government acted quickly as a significant package of measures was passed in the 2009 Finance Act:

  • development of the rescript, a form of a priori improved tax security in the form of a double level of assessment of situations submitted to the administration;
  • installation of departmental interlocutors to broaden and facilitate the use of the recours gracieux ;
  • widening the range of subjects that can be submitted to departmental commissions, judges of fact and justices of the peace in many cases;
  • creation of a National Tax Commission to deal with factual issues arising from the largest companies;
  • institution of an adversarial procedure before the Comité de Répression des Abus de Droit (CRAD) and enlargement of its composition to “civil society” (lawyers, accountants).

In practical terms, the extensive reorganisation of the financial administrations is rapidly leading to :

  • physical proximity to the taxpayer through the reorganisation of the network:
    • the former privileged tax services in the major cities;
    • the old perceptions that criss-cross the territory;
    • the DGE offering high-level services to large companies in Pantin;
  • digital approximation through the rapid development of Internet filing, tax account keeping, etc;
  • the installation of a single, identified tax contact.

The result of these efforts is well known and measurable: the former DGI is the best rated administration in France[2]!

THE CUSTOMER AS A USER OF BANKS

One looks in vain for measures of this nature in banking law:

  • Certainly, all the major institutions[3] have set up a mediator, and all account holders[4] find on the back of their statements an indication of the possible recourses in the event of a dispute: the branch manager, often a central contact person such as the “customer relations” mediator;
  • According to the information provided in the annual reports of the large institutions, the activity of these ombudsmen is, to say the least, reduced; is it the lack of problems or the lack of credibility that is the cause?

The fact remains that the setting up of a national credit mediator was done without the credit institutions having pleaded for a moment that they had already had one each for nearly 10 years! The Banque de France, which chairs a banking mediation committee “responsible for examining the mediators’ reports and drawing up an annual report on banking mediation”, does not seem to have defended the existing system any more.

The result is known:

  • In this period of acute financial crisis, bank staff in contact with the public are complaining of being regularly insulted or even molested;
  • the public image of banks has deteriorated significantly;
  • complaints are multiplying, if we are to believe both the DGCCRF and the French Association of Bank Users[5].

When will there be a Charter on the rights of the company using the services of a bank?

Dominique LEDOUBLE


[1] Presaje.com février 2009 N°5 – Michel Rouger – Crise financière : pourquoi l’État doit rester à l’écart du face à face entre la banque et ses clients.
[2] Cf. rapports annuels de la DGI 2006 et 2007.
[3] Le champ d’application et les modalités générales de fonctionnement de la médiation bancaire figurent à l’article L312-1-3 C.Monét.Fin. Le champ d’application de la médiation bancaire a été élargi par la loi Chatel du 3 janvier 2008.
[4] Personne physique n’agissant pas pour des besoins professionnels.
[5] Le Figaro 12/13 septembre 2009 p. 25.

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