Greek competition watchdog raids banks in pricing probe

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece’s competition authorities raided the country’s main commercial banks on Thursday in a probe on pricing and commission practices, witnesses and bankers with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: A woman uses a Eurobank ATM in Athens, Greece, August 19, 2015. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

The probe was launched simultaneously at all of the country’s big banks with inspectors dispatched to head offices, in an unprecedented raid, the sources said.

Inspectors raided the head offices of National Bank NBGr.AT, Piraeus Bank BOPr.AT, Eurobank EURBr.AT, Alpha Bank ACBr.AT, Attica Bank BOAr.AT as well as the offices of the Greek bank association, bankers said.

The competition commission declined any immediate comment on the rationale for the probe.

The body is looking into whether banks colluded on fees charged for bank transactions, banking sources said.

“They are after us on the fees being charged,” one of the bankers told Reuters.

“We were not allowed to leave the premises and they are copying the hard disks of all computers. But we don’t have anything to worry about.”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had discussed fees with banks last month, and had urged them to revoke increases in charges they had announced for a series of services, government officials said at the time.

“It was a simultaneous raid by the competition authority to check fees on credit cards, ATMs, etc., looking into whether there had been collaboration between different banks on pricing,” another senior banker said.

“I don’t think they will uncover anything, when you price services, naturally you track your competitors - up and down. It is strange though that the probe is taking place after some banks cut fees,” the senior banker said.

Two other bankers alleged the move was politically motivated, calling it “a show.”

Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Alexandra Hudson