Swiss cantonal banks accused of ripping off customers by consumer foundation

Swiss cantonal banks accused of ripping off customers by consumer foundation

The Consumer Protection Foundation has accused Swiss banks of “ripping off” their customers. The institute argued that despite registering record profits, Swiss cantonal banks are not passing their windfalls on to their account holders.

Swiss cantonal banks register record profits

In a report published by the Tages-Anzeiger, the newspaper noted that the 24 cantonal banks of Switzerland have made total profits of 2,3 billion francs so far this year. Two-thirds of these institutions registered record-breaking profits in the first six months of 2023. 

For reference, a cantonal bank is a bank where a Swiss canton has significant stakes or shareholder rights. In most of these institutions, customer deposits are guaranteed by cantonal authorities.

Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB), the largest of all cantonal banks, made profits of 677 million francs in the first two quarters of the year. No single cantonal-backed bank made a loss between January and July, with Banca Stato from Canton Ticino recording a 160 percent profit increase compared to the same period last year.

Swiss customers fail to benefit from record profits

Despite this increase in profits - which the Tages-Anzeiger attributed to interest rate rises on Swiss mortgages and other loans - few banks have decided to increase interest rates on savings and deposits. As a result, Consumer Protection Foundation managing director Sara Stadler argued that “the banks are ripping off their customers.”

Speaking to the newspaper, Stadler said that it was “unfair” that banks could make “absurdly high profits” while refusing to pass on the benefits to their customers. “It is high time that they create a fairer situation for consumers again”, she noted.

Cantonal banks must cater to residents, professor argues

Peter Kunz, economics professor at the University of Bern, argued that as 15 of the cantonal banks are majority or solely owned by the state, “profit maximisation should not be the priority.” They should "actually be more accommodating to customers when it comes to fees and interest”, he argued.

As a result, Green Party president Balthasar Glättli has called for a windfall tax on all excess profits generated by Swiss banks, noting that “if we skim off the excess profits, they will benefit the general public. For example, they could be used to additionally reduce [health insurance] premiums.” He told the Tages-Anzieger that he is considering submitting his proposal to the government.

Swiss banks argue interest rates are fair

In response, the Association of Cantonal Banks told the Tages-Anzeiger that current interest rates on savings are “in line with the market” and that many have already started to raise rates by up to 1 percent - although the newspaper noted that mortgage interest rates hover around 3 percent. They explained that the last year has seen interest rates rise rapidly and that it will take a while before the situation returns to normal.

Thumb image credit: Judith Linine /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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