Consumer protection: coalition extends garnishment protection

Banknotes

With a garnishment protection account, assets up to an amount of 1180 euros have been protected since July 1, 2019.

(Photo: dpa)

Berlin Credit balances on joint accounts are to be protected against seizures in the future. In the case of an attachment, these can be separated in the future. This is a central innovation that the so-called garnishment protection account development law provides.

“This is an important step for people who live and do business together,” said Christian Lange (SPD), State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, when the law was brought into the Bundestag.

Even when it comes to larger purchases, indebted people are to be given greater freedom by the new law. Seizure-free credit should not only be saved for one month in the future, but three months. For many households, for example, this should simplify the purchase of household appliances.

The reform of the garnishment protection account (P account) has suddenly become more topical due to the economic effects of the corona crisis. Because in the wake of the pandemic, which is associated with more unemployment and short-time work, more over-indebted households are expected.

The P-account, launched in 2010, serves the goal of enabling indebted persons to live in dignity in foreclosure. Before the introduction, the payment account was blocked in the case of a garnishment, and the consumer was somewhat cut off from the economy.

Around two million P accounts in Germany

Every customer can ask their bank or savings bank to convert the current account into a P account if necessary. This ensures that credits can only be used to repay debts above the garnishment-free limit. Since July 1, 2019, assets up to an amount of EUR 1180 have been protected. If there are maintenance obligations for children, for example, the limit increases further. According to estimates, there are around two million P accounts in Germany.

From the coalition’s point of view, the P account is a socio-political achievement. “The P account has meant that people have been able to find their way out of over-indebtedness. You can quasi free yourself, ”says CSU consumer politician Volker Ullrich. The FDP consumer protection expert Katrin Heiling-Plahr praises that the garnishment protection account enables those affected to continue to participate in economic life.

Nevertheless, there is a need for change. An evaluation started six years after the law was introduced. The results of this have now been incorporated into the reform.

For example, the adjustment of the garnishment exemption limits to labor income is shortened. So far, the garnishment exemption limit has been adjusted every two years, so the period has been reduced to one year. “This mainly helps people with low incomes,” believes State Secretary Lange.

Nevertheless, the left proposes that the legislative proposal still offers open flanks. “In so-called patchwork partnerships, the debtors have to stand up for their partners and their children, but they cannot use this in their favor under enforcement law,” said the left-wing consumer politician, Friedrich Straetmanns. This means that if a family is seized, means of subsistence can be withdrawn.

“This is a case that has already annoyed me as a judge at the social court, because it is precisely the children who suffer disadvantages,” said Straetmanns. Here the law had to be improved.

More: Corona crisis will increase the number of over-indebted households.

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