By Willy Staley  Updated on Fri May 4, 2012

In Germany, When Banks Screw Up, You Pay for It

In Germany, When Banks Screw Up, You Pay for It

Emilian Vicol/flickr source

What would you do if your bank accidentally put €200 million ($262 million) into your bank account? Would you call them up, and let them know they had made an error, waiting on hold to tell some poor soul at a call center that you’re not deserving of the millions they’ve bestowed upon you? Or would you quickly move a small percentage – €10 million, say — to another bank account, just to see what happens?

A German man, who the German media identifies only as Michael H., had all of this happen to him, according to The Local, an English-language German news source. He went the latter route, which is exactly what we would probably do, too. I mean, hey — free money.

What Michael H. could not have predicted is how his bank, Comdirect — an online bank owned by Commerzbank — would react. Obviously the bank wanted their €200 million back. They got it back within 12 hours. That much he could have guessed. What’s surprising about this is that Comdirect took an additional €12,000 from Michael’s account, which the bank claim Michael owed in interest — 14.4 percent, according to The Local, but it’s not entirely clear how they came to this figure. This happened back in March of this year.

Just this week, The Local reported that Michael H. sued for his €12,000 back, and he won:

The district court in Itzehoe, Schleswig-Holstein, ruled on Thursday that Comdirect should repay the man the €12,000 – plus the interest it accrued over the last year. But the bank…is going to appeal. “People who want to use money that does not belong to them generally have to pay interest,” a bank spokesman said. “That is the same for everyone.”

Except, maybe, for banks.

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  • http://twitter.com/FinancialBrand The Financial Brand

    Still stealing. He’s lucky he didn’t go to jail. People who discover huge sums of money erroneously deposited in their accounts get shipped off to prison all the time… if they do something stupid, like spend it. Happened once of twice in Australia alone last year (or year before).