Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers

Coop Bank has refused customers purely on the basis that they cannot speak Danish, according to a media report in Denmark.

Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers
A file photo of a Coop supermarket in Denmark. Coop Bank reportedly turned away customers who do not speak Danish. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

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.

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Danish banks ‘broke rules’ to collect overdue repayments from customers

Some of Denmark’s largest banks repeatedly broke rules when collecting overdue repayments from customers, according to media reports.

Danish banks 'broke rules' to collect overdue repayments from customers

Tens of thousands of customers at major banks including Nordea, Jyske Bank and Nykredit could be affected by the issue, according to reports by broadcaster TV2 and newspaper Berlingske.

Extensive mistakes at the banks’ debt departments mean that affected customers may either be owed money or need to have their debts adjusted, according to the reports.

The customers affected are those considered to be inkassokunder, meaning those who have repeatedly failed to meet repayments despite reminders.

Documentation sent from eight major banks to the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) provided to the two media under an access to information request, is reported to show debt collection by banks in breach of banking rules.

The banks have demanded repayment of debt that may have lapsed, was calculated incorrectly or which was never loaned by the customers.

Similar errors were found by the two media at Danske Bank in 2020. This led to the Financial Supervisory Authority initiating a wider review of debt collection processes in the Danish banking sector.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Danish banks’ policies on non-Danish speaking customers

The mistakes were found to be most frequent at Nordea, Jyske Bank and but also found at further banks, taking in Arbejdernes Landsbank, Lån og Spar Bank, Sparekassen Sjælland-Fyn, Jyske Realkredit and Jyske Finans.

The three former banks said they “regret” the mistakes, with Nordea estimating 154,000 customers could be affected according to TV2.

The industry organisation for banks, Finans Danmark, told TV2 and Berlingske in written comments that it was sorry for the mistakes and “it is our impression that the banks in question are working diligently to solve the challenges”.

Arbejdernes Landsbank, Lån og Spar Bank and Sparekassen Sjælland-Fyn told the two media the errors had now been corrected.

The senior economist with consumer rights group Forbrugerrådet, Morten Bruun Pedersen, told Berlingske that “broad” extent of the errors in the finance sector was concerning.

“There is no grip on limitation periods and principle sums, interest and fees are all clumped together. That surprises me a lot because this actually a quite clearly regulated area,” he said.

The rules are at the core of debt collection in the banking sector and banks must “simply know what they are”, he said.