Interdiction bancaire – or being banned by the bank
Last year some 1.8 million people were on the Bank of France’s blacklist, subject to what’s officially called interdiction bancaire. What does this mean exactly? Well, imagine you’ve been to Galeries Lafayette, say, or Darty or Auchan and you’ve handed over a cheque for €179. You’re one of those people – surprisingly common – who doesn’t keep too close an eye on what’s happening to your bank account. The cheque bounces because there’s not enough money there to cover it. The bank is obliged to report this to the Banque de France who will record this incident on the fichier central des chèques (FCC). In other words, you’re recorded as a banking miscreant.
You can regularise the situation
But this doesn’t happen immediately. A bank has to inform you that the cheque has bounced and what it has done about it and (this has been confirmed by a recent court decision) it is legally obligated to make sure you have received this information. This should give you time to regularise the situation. In practice, banks will treat you according to your record as a customer. If they think you’re rather dodgy they’ll be quick to get you on the FCC; if they think you’re basically straight they’ll be more understanding. If you can’t pay your way out of the problem, you’ll be blacklisted and this will be notified to all French banks – so if you’ve got accounts in two different places you’ll be banned twice over. In theory interdiction can last for five years
However, at any time you can regularise the situation although the bank will impose a financial penalty. Earlier this could be of disproportionate severity, but from this year limits have been specified: for cheques of up to €50 the penalty is €30, for higher amounts €50. If you fail to regularise the situation within two months you will also be liable to a state penalty of €22 for each €150 of the total sum involved. When you’ve cleared the matter up you can ask your bank to request that you be removed from the FCC. Some banks are slow to do this and so you could have a problem when seeking credit, for example. To be sure you’ve been de-banned, you can write directly to Banque de France FCC, 86067 Poitiers Cedex 9 or go in person to 14 rue Félix Faure in Nice. Proof of identity must be provided.
While banned you retain the right to pay in cheques received, have bank transfers credited and authorise standing orders ... and to issue two cheques a month; you can also keep a debit card. Note, though, that if your bank regards you as a nuisance it has the right to close your account. But even then you can ask the Banque de France to indicate another bank that will accept you for limited service – including the provision of a debit card. Watch out, though: if you get into trouble with the card, you can lose it and then you could be under a total ban for up to two years. So just keep an eye on your account.