08 August 2023
The European Banking Authority (EBA) published today a Report on its mystery shopping exercise into personal loans and payment accounts. The exercise confirmed that mystery shopping is a tool that adds immense value to the supervision of national competent authorities and is complementary to other more conventional tools or approaches. It delivers first-hand information about, and insight into, the conduct of financial Institutions towards consumers visiting a branch or using a digital channel.
For example, within the small sample of financial institutions covered by the mystery shopping exercise, the EBA found that the conduct of some of them is inadequate and needs to improve. Some financial institutions, for instance, did not provide the required pre-contractual information to consumers, and automatically increased the total amount of the credit to include the bank fees without collecting consumer’s explicit consent.
The EBA has coordinated the mystery shopping exercise in 2023 involving five national competent authorities, which took part as direct participants or observers. 37 financial institutions across the participating Member States were mystery shopped on 340 occasions, of which 250 were carried out on-site and 90 online. The mystery shopping exercise focused on the pre-contractual phase of obtaining personal loans and, in some jurisdictions, also payment accounts, including those with basic features. In order to account for divergent national circumstances, such as provisions in national law and national supervisory priorities, some details of the mystery shopping exercise varied between participating Member States.
The EBA publishes this Report as fourth and final step, fulfilling its mandate received on 1 January 2020 in Article 9(1) of the EBA Founding Regulation. The mandate requires the EBA to 'coordinate mystery shopping activities of competent authorities, if applicable'. As a first step, the EBA had published a Report on mystery shopping activities of national competent authorities, which was published in May 2021. This was followed by a methodological guide to mystery shopping released in July 2021. In 2022, the EBA procured an external mystery shopping provider to coordinate any relevant activities.
The content and scope of this mystery shopping exercise was informed by the findings of the separate thematic review on the transparency and level of fees and charges of retail banking products that the EBA had published in December 2022.