Banks and right to information

We increasingly receive enquiries relating to the provision of information by banks. Certain banks demand a fee that clearly exceeds the amount of 300 francs permitted by data protection law.

We increasingly receive enquiries concerning the right to information under Article 8 of the Data Protection Act (DPA). In particular, certain financial institutions seem not to want to respond to these enquiries or will only do so when charging a high fee. Freedom of information is the starting point for the enforcement of other claims under data protection law such as the rectification, blocking or deletion of personal data. It may only be restricted under certain strict conditions. If a bank restricts access to the information, it must give reasons for doing so. It is liable to prosecution if it deliberately issues false or incomplete information. Information may be restricted if the person concerned abuses the law. In its decision BGE 138 II 425, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court set a high benchmark for claiming that the right to information should be restricted on these grounds. This decision required a particular bank to disclose information even when this information was asked for not only for private reasons but also for possible use in a subsequent liability case.

Certain financial institutions now seem to think that the only way out of this dilemma is to charge exorbitant fees to provide information. There is a clear legal position regarding the extent of the fees that may be charged based on the Ordinance to the DPA, namely, the data controller, that is to say the bank, may charge a maximum fee of CHF 300. We therefore would advise those concerned to claim their right to information before the civil courts.