Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Swedish banking system: wins & fails

One of the more evolved aspects of Sweden and Europe as a whole is the banking system here.  Gone are the days of cheques (or checks if your american).  As most people here bank over the internet, transferring payments between accounts and/or paying invoices is a piece of cake. 

In fact, once micro payments become more common place I see this system of electronic transfers a possible replacement for cash entirely.  Unsurprisingly, this was discussed in sweden a few years ago where the thought was that the entire country should switch entirely to a cashless (read: paper currency) based economy.  Such a move would be a boon to Skatteverket (the tax authority) here as a lot of transactions do occur 'black' otherwise known as untaxed here in the country.  Such a move would also reduce money laundering as funds could be tracked as they flowed through the system.

But what happens when electronic transfers go wrong? This was the case for me a few weeks ago as I had deregistered my vehicle and was expecting my road tax from the traffic authority back.  Now this should not be such a difficult thing to accomplish, one would think, however getting my funds back were more challenging then i could have imagined.

When i first moved here i opened up an account with SwedBank.  After picking up the language, i decided that i would switch to an internet based bank such as the one i use in CanadaSkandiabanken was my choice and i went down to a local SwedBank branch and requested to close off my account.  Foolishly i figured that when I closed my account with SwedBank that my account would actually be closed.  Traffikverket uses Swedbank as the company to handle refunds of payments made to their organization.  I dont understand how it is so hard for them to type a few numbers in a form on the computer in order to refund people but whatever, so they use SwedBank.  When they received the funds, they saw that i had an account (which has laid dorment for almost 3 years) and thought great we can put the money in there and promptly sent me a letter that they had done this.

The frustration started when i tried to even contact Swedbank!, i have no account with them, no pin code no way to actually talk to a live person using their customer support line which asks you to key in your customer number and passcode and hangs up on you when you dont put in this information. 

After months of asking why they had put the money into an account that was obviously dormant,  i had to physically go to a branch and fill out paperwork to close my closed account again. 

The swedish word of the day is: Jobbigt which means annoying in english.