Banks Refusing to Give Checkbooks to Poor Customers
Many complaints we receive have made it apparent that banks are refusing to give their poor customers checkbooks. Other customers met with such refusal were formerly bankrupt or in debt, although they have recovered financially and established financial stability since.
The lack of access to checkbooks hurts people severely (especially the poor or pension beneficiaries, who are ineligible for credit cards). In Israel of 2020, it is not possible to live a normal life without checks, especially when it comes to poor people without credit cards. Without checks you cannot rent an apartment, pay school tuition for your children, or perform other essential socio-economic exchanges requiring a non-immediate payment commitment. The lack of access to checks often makes services more expensive than usual; for example, some landlords charge significantly higher rent from bank customers without checks, and the rental options for these customers are already slimmer. Ironically, these customers, who often have limited resources and try to minimize their expenses, end up spending more every month for the essential need of a roof over their heads.
The Bank of Israel’s regulations on this are extremely limited, giving the banks extensive autonomy on the matter, which is abused in a discriminatory way. Therefore, along with Haifa University’s Legal Clinic for the Exercise of Rights in Civil Procedure, we appealed to the Governor of the Bank of Israel and the Supervisor of Banks. In the appeal, ACRI’s Attorney Maskit Bendel and the Clinic’s Attorney Reut Cohen demanded to address the matter appropriately: establish certain criteria for determining when a bank’s decision to refuse the customer a checkbook is considered reasonable, and that a bank may not unreasonably refuse the customer a checkbook.