Bank Customers responsible for Lost EC-Card

Banks usually do not have to refund their customers after their EC-card has been stolen. The judges of BGH decided that the EC-card system with PIN is adequately safe against misuse. A customer can only then successfully sue the bank for the refunding of illegal use of the card if there is circumstantial evidence for a misuse or disturbance in the security measures. (re: October 5, 2004, XI ZR 210/03).

Bank Customers responsible for Lost EC-Card

This dispute on the security of the EC-card system has been a topic for years. The case considered a lady, who sued her bank for a refund because a thief stole her card. The bank denied being obligated to refund because the thief immediately entered the correct PIN. This is – had according to the bank’s and court’s opinion – only possible if the thief had in one way or the other access to the PIN code due to the customer’s gross negligence – i.e. keeping the PIN together with the card in wallet.

The court ruled it to be mathematically impossible to crack the code of the EC-card. The mere theoretical possibility to decipher the code is not deficient enough to disqualify the bank’s security system. Those supporting the credit economy welcomed this decision. The judges also emphasized that banks may not refuse the verification of their security systems, whenever there are signs of deficiencies. Consumer protection agencies have for a long time been criticizing that banks were warding off the inspection of their systems by experts. So far, experts have only been able to make statements founded on basic assumptions. Another opinion might rule a different judgment if the customer could demonstrate that he or she had been spied upon. Manipulation of ATMs is not something that just recently started.

Customers of Sparkassen (savings banks) have a blessing in disguise. Presuming they only acted negligently, they are only liable up to € 500 per day.

1.)  How to prevent misuse?

There are some very simple measures that you can easily apply to prevent the misuse of your cash card.

a.) PIN Code

  • Never put it as a note on your card!
  • Banks also advise not to write it on any documents, which are kept near to your cash card.
  • Letters from the bank containing your PIN are to be destroyed after opening – best burnt or eaten.
  • If you have either numerous PINs to remember or your memory is not so good, you can store it in your cell phone. Do not enter a new name "PIN" but use e.g. your bank clerk's name and hide the four digits in the number after the city code in "dial thru".

b.) At The Counter or ATM:   BE CAUTIOUS!   That is the maxim.

  • While typing the PIN into the automatic teller machine cover your one hand with the other.
  • Never is a PIN required to enter a bank! This is only a trick to get a hold of your PIN.
  • In case the ATM takes in your card, consult a bank officer in the branch of the hungry ATM -- ASAP. After bank hours call the New Emergency Number!
  • Furthermore, when entering a bank ask yourself following questions:

    • Is there a little box on top of the slot for your card?
      Don’t insert your card! Report it to the bank.
    • Is there a (new?) shade in front of the monitor?
      If so report this! Don’t withdraw there!!
    • Is there anybody watching you?
      Place your body to block his view.

2.)  What to do if you lose your card?

Don’t just get upset or cry – get active and quickly!

3.)  In Case of Loss

Call the emergency number and have the card frozen. To do so you need the card and account number at hand.

Note the circumstances of loss and file a report to the police. Countermand unauthorized withdrawals – immediately.

General emergency numbers for:

  • all savings bank, Maestro-, bank and EC-cards: + 49 (0) 1 8 0 5 – 021 021
  • Emergency number for some banks: 116 116 (toll free) or from abroad +49 116 116 (now toll number)
  • American Express: + 49 69 97 97 1000
  • Diners Club (toll call): + 49 1805 33 66 95
  • VISA-Card (Germany only:) 0800 811 8440, (international call collect:) + 1 410 581 9994


Travelers' Check:

  • Thomas Cook: (Germany only:) 0800 - 185 99 30<, (international) + 44 173 331 89 50
  • American Express: (Germany only:) 0800 185 31 00, (international) see check booklet
  • VISA Interpayment (Germany only:) 0800 - 181 40 70 Further information is obtainable in the internet under – but only in German


4.) SOS-Info-Passport

Have all emergency numbers on one card – the SOS card. You can download this card and insert all personal information. Always keep the card with you! It does not matter if something goes wrong on vacation, if your wallet with all your credit cards are stolen or you lose your cell phone. Having kept the SOS card safe will save a lot of time of otherwise vainly needed. This card comes in handy too, if you want to know your account numbers, car insurance details, address of your embassy abroad. Open the PDF file and enter your personal data and tuck it away safe. Click to download your own form [pdf].

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