Having a bank account is of prime importance for any business; without a bank account, it is (virtually) impossible for enterprises to participate in economic life. In practice, however, some enterprises encounter difficulties in opening a bank account. One can think, for example, of actors working within the hospitality industry, the diamond sector, etc.
To address this issue, the so-called “basic banking service for companies” was already inserted in the Belgian Code of Economic Law (CEL) on 8 November 2020, in Article VII.59/4 et seq. CEL. To date, however, this law has had little impact in practice, as there was a need for an implementing decree. This implementing decree has finally arrived!
On 16 January 2023, the Royal Decree of 16 December 2022 on the basic banking service for companies was published in the Belgian Official Gazette.
What is covered by the term basic banking service?
The term “basic banking service” means so-called “payment services” within the meaning of Art. I.9,1°,a b, or c CEL. These include for example, opening accounts, placing and/or withdrawing cash and carrying out payment transactions. It does not include more complex transactions, such as entering into credit agreements or other possible forms of financing.
Who is entitled to the basic banking service?
Any enterprise established in Belgium and registered in the Crossroads Bank for Enterprises or applying for registration is entitled to the basic banking service. The only condition imposed is that three different credit institutions must have refused to provide the enterprise with a minimum service.
Note that this is not an absolute right. The basic banking service can be refused in certain exhaustively listed cases, such as, for example, a conviction of a member of the company’s statutory governing body for fraud, forgery, etc.
Which banks offer the basic banking service?
Every year, the National Bank of Belgium publishes a list of systemically important institutions required to offer the basic banking service. In 2023, these are the six following institutions:
(i) BNP Paribas Fortis
(ii) KBC Group
(iii) Belfius Bank
(iv) ING Belgium
(vi) Axa Bank Belgium
How to apply for basic banking services?
The enterprise wishing to apply for basic banking services will have to do so via an application form that will be provided by the FPS Economy and/or the so-called Chamber of Basic Banking services. The application form is addressed to the Chamber of Basic Banking services. This Chamber of Basic Banking Services is responsible for appointing the basic banking service provider. It is composed of two civil servants and four members with special expertise in payment services, who may not be civil servants. The members were appointed by Ministerial Decree of 31 January 2023.
As soon as the application has been declared admissible, the Chamber of Basic Banking Services sends the application file to the Financial Intelligence Processing Unit, which will issue an opinion. After obtaining this opinion – or in the absence of a negative opinion within sixty calendar days – the Chamber of Basic Banking Services has a period of two months to decide whether or not to designate a basic banking service provider to the enterprise.
The Royal Decree of 16 December 2022
Since 28 February 2023, it is officially possible to apply via the following link: Basic banking service for businesses and diplomatic missions | FPS Economy (fgov.be) . The application can be submitted either by a legal representative of the company or by an agent (e.g.: a lawyer or accountant).
Do you have any further questions regarding this basic banking service or wish to be assisted in applying for the basic banking service? Our corporate team is always ready to assist you further in this regard!