The Context: Banks and Anti-Money Laundering Laws. The question of how to force a bank to open a bank account is a question that has become relevant ever since the entry of the anti-money laundering law into force in 2017.
This law obliges financial institutions to ensure their services are not misused for money laundering purposes. As non-compliance with this law entails prohibitively high penalties, banks have actively engaged in “De-risking.”
Understanding De-Risking: Why Banks Refuse Accounts. “De-risking” occurs when a financial institution refuses business relationships with customers associated with higher money laundering and terrorist financing risks. This practice has led to certain banks introducing blanket bans on specific customer categories, putting even existing customers at risk.
The issue of unjustified “de-risking” actions by banks has been recognized by the National Bank of Belgium and the European Banking Authority.
The Solution: Basic Banking Services for Businesses. Any business established in Belgium with a business number (KBO/BCE number) can seek recourse if rejected by at least three banks for opening payment services provided for in the Code of Economic Law (WER/CDE) following the Royal Decree of 16 December 2022 on the basic banking service for businesses.
The National Bank of Belgium website provides an updated list of basic banking service providers in 2023, which includes all major banks.
How to Apply: Steps to Secure a Basic Banking Service. To obtain a basic banking service, an application is submitted to the Basic Banking Service Chamber of the FPS Economy, including:
- A declaration of honour confirming the lack of basic banking service.
- Evidence of at least three refusals to open payment services.
- A fully completed application form.
Potential Hurdles and Considerations. Keep in mind that banks can still refuse basic banking services in case of conflict with anti-terrorism or anti-money laundering legislation.
Contact Frederik Laevens for more information and guidance.