Coop Bank has been turning away customers who don’t speak Danish, the Politiken newspaper has reported, citing the case of a Malaysian man who was told that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish.
Mohamad Haizam, from Malaysia, was told by a customer services agent that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish.
“It shocked me and I thought, what kind of racist bank is this? I din’t understand it because a had a CPR [personal registration, ed.] number address, everything,” he told Politiken.
But when Politiken itself rang customer services, they were told the same thing.
“Because we are a Danish bank, we have all our documents in Danish, we only speak Danish (…) I have not been trained to be able to advise others in English,” the agent said. “And that is why we have decided that we will not change that now. And that it is best to go that way and say, we only take in Danish customers,” the advisor is quoted.
Haizam’s situation in not the only example found by Politiken of Coop refusing customers who do not speak Danish.
Claus Haagensen, a representative for distribution firm Post & Medier, told Politiken that 80 percent the company’s employees had a foreign background, and he had been told by Coop that non-Danish speakers cannot have a bank account.
Anyone with legal residence in Denmark or another EU country has the right to a bank account and banks are obliged to offer basic accounts within 10 days of application.
Those rules are, however, not always complied with according to Politiken.
The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) told the newspaper that banks cannot refuse to open a basic current account for customers if they do not speak Danish.
But neither are banks obliged to communicate with customers in a language they understand, it said.
As such, a customer who does not speak Danish may risk being unable to understand communications from a bank which chooses only to use Danish.
Coop Bank CEO Allan Nørholm admitted that the bank may have been hasty in rejecting customers, in comments to Politken.
“We should naturally not generally turn away a customer who cannot speak Danish if we can confirm that the customer has access to someone who can help with translation. We will correct this,” he told Politiken.
“But we are a little bank and do not have correspondence in English or German and we have found it most responsible to offer advice in the language which we know customers can understand,” he said.
The CEO also said that Coop would change its practice if it found it to be against the law.
Coop Bank has around 100,000 customers.
Business Minister Morten Bødskov called the policy of refusing accounts to non-Danish speakers “completely crazy”.
“It is very surprising and completely crazy that a bank says a member of the public does not have the right to a basic account because they don’t speak Danish,” Bødskov told Ritzau.
“There is no way of enforcing this demand under the law. What kind of a signal does a bank send to large parts of Danish society where we have lots of foreigners who are doing a great job? This won’t do,” the minister said.
Have you experienced a situation similar to the one described in this article? Or did you have the opposite experience with a bank that helped you when you couldn’t speak Danish? Let us know.