Santander should return R$ 79 million of undue charges to customers

Decision was taken in agreement with the Central Bank and refers to irregularities practiced between January 2014 and February 2022

Henrique Barreto/Estadão Content
Consumer Protection Code points out that the bank must refund its customers with the corrected amount, in addition to paying double the amount in punishment for their actions

O Santander made an agreement with the central bank for return of BRL 79 million for undue charges to your customers. Santander stated that it has reimbursed more than 90% of the amounts and that it will reach the total amount within the agreed period. In addition, the bank says that it has taken the necessary measures to ensure that the charges do not happen again. The former director of Sao Paulo Procon, Fernando Capez, points out that the irregularities were practiced for a long period, between January 2014 and February this year. “Santander knew that it could not charge interest above the limit established by the Central Bank, a maximum limit of 8%, and it charged it deliberately, aware that it was charging improperly. The consumer protection code is very clear, every time an undue amount is charged, the one who charged has to refund the amount in double. It is not just returning the amount, it is returning the corrected amount in double, so those consumers, even if they receive their refund, can sue Santander in court, so that it returns this amount, once again, because they are entitled to receive double what was wrongly charged. So, Santander knew that, it tried to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but we understand that the consumer should not leave it cheap, he should charge the other party, which is the same amount, as a punishment established by the Consumer Defense Code. And also, I believe, that Procon, through its executive director, should investigate this issue and, eventually, even apply a fine for abusive practice by Santander”, says Capez.

The term of commitment with the Central Bank was signed in May. The lawyer specializing in consumer law, Renata Abalém, says that Santander only signed the term after a long legal battle to avoid a much larger administrative fine. “Consumers, especially consumers from large suppliers, such as Banco Santander, do not complain, the percentage of consumers who complain does not reach 1% of the number of consumers affected by some conduct. We estimated a while ago that it was 5%, after the pandemic [de Covid-19] this number dropped a lot, because the consumer, in short, became extremely unmotivated, is extremely unmotivated to seek the judiciary. And lit that fire. And the consumer fire for all banks now goes out, we’re going to take our eyes on that. Under what terms there was an undue charge. If there was an undue charge by Santander, why was there no undue charge by another bank?”, he asks.

The former national secretary for Consumer Protection, lawyer Athur Rollo, reinforces that Santander acted consciously against its customers. “I should have done this, as we say in law, ex officio, that is, without the need for a term of adjustment of conduct. It should have returned the money to consumers as soon as it became aware of the irregular charges. But the need for an attack shows that it had to go from the outside to the inside and not from within the bank itself, out of respect for the customers. It took someone saying ‘either you give the money back, or I’m going to take some more serious action against you’. It shows that the bank, in fact, is not aware of its social role and that it does not have the respect expected of a bank in relation to its customers”, he points out.

Santander customers took to social media to criticize the bank’s conduct. Santander’s infractions involve charging interest on overdrafts, credit card installments, improper collection of individual entrepreneurs and micro-entrepreneurs in operations via pix. Personal trainer Leonardo Melo claims that he was a victim of the multiplication of interest at Santander after it expanded its credit limit. “I ended up using it and I was paying, but it was generating interest. When I went to see it, I had interest from R$8 to R$9 thousand reais. At that same moment, they blocked all my limits, all my credits, lines of credit, I had a card, they blocked everything. So I had BRL 5, BRL 6 thousand at the time, it was zero and I didn’t have any kind of credit, no purchasing power.

*With information from reporter Marcelo Mattos