This is not the first time that the government has asked banks and insurers to make a gesture in favor of consumers. Already in the spring, Bruno Le Maire had invited them to show moderation in terms of bank charges and insurance premiums.
Bruno Le Maire calls for a price freeze
In this new school year, the Minister of the Economy is once again stepping up to the plate. In his interview with Sud Ouest, this Sunday, August 21, the tenant of Bercy expressly asks them to make a gesture. He mentions his desire to bring together the representatives of the sectors next week to talk about the subject. While inflation exceeds 6% in France over one year, unheard of since the 80s, Bruno Le Maire is seeking by all means to limit the decline in the purchasing power of the French. However, the back-to-school period is often a good time to take out insurance, especially school insurance.
Both banks and insurance companies are holding back. They already believe that they participate sufficiently in the national effort. Thus, the federation of French banks (FBF) reminds the Tribune that the “Banks have, for several years now, made commitments to cap the costs of banking incidents for the most vulnerable customers. Nearly 700,000 people benefited from this support system in 2021.. In total, nearly 4 million low-income people are covered in this way and have their bank charges capped.
Still, according to a study by Panorabanques, published at the start of the year, bank charges should increase in 2022 by almost 2%. If this increase is lower than inflation, it is, according to this price comparator, among the highest since 2017.
Banks and insurers resist
Furthermore, the FBF also emphasizes “French banks are among the largest contributors to French public finances, with around 23.9 billion euros in taxes, levies, social charges in France, and as such they are major taxpayers”.
For their part, insurers believe they are very present in support of people who are victims of bad weather and fires this summer. With rising material cost rates, they often face higher claims reimbursement costs. Insurance companies also defend themselves by putting forward specific offers for young job seekers so that they can access home or car guarantees at a lower cost.
For the time being, no precise date has been communicated to these sectors concerning the meeting, but will they be able to hold on to their positions for very long? Nothing is less certain because the profits of the establishments could play against them. Just one example: since the beginning of the year, BNP has posted record profits. After a historic 2021 in terms of profits, the group could achieve one of its best results in 2022: it has already garnered more than 5 billion euros in profits, an increase of 13% over one year.
Towards an exceptional tax on banks?
There is also the threat of an exceptional tax on these sectors. The idea is not French, but in Spain, Belgium or Hungary, governments plan to temporarily tax banks and insurance companies to finance anti-inflation measures. The model is simple, it is a matter of levying them as for the oil sector. In England, Italy, or Spain precisely, the energy giants which have reaped super profits with the crisis are taxed.
For the time being, France has not taken this path. The question of a so-called tax on super-profits was indeed discussed in the National Assembly and the Senate this summer, during the discussion of the text on purchasing power. But she was not adopted. Emmanuel Macron’s government prefers to encourage these companies to take action. This is what Total has done, for example, which applies a rebate at the pump, in addition to that of the executive. Ditto for motorway companies, which reduce toll rates for certain customers, according to specific conditions…
But the subject is far from dead. It could even come back in force this summer, during the budget debate. Insurers and bankers are therefore on their guard. These sectors are all the more so as in French public opinion, their image is not always very favorable.