German business practices

Phil Payne quattro at
Fri Apr 5 00:48:07 EST 2002

> Do Germans (or other Europeans) primarily use wire transfers for payment
> these days? I know that this is the case in Japan (no personal checks,
> all wire transfer), but am not sure about Germany.
> We are so backward in the US that we're not at this stage just yet and
> making wire transfers is very costly and time-consuming.

It has been standard business practice in Germany for decades now.  When you receive an
invoice from a German supplier, the footer of the document carries "Bandverbindungen" - their
bank account details.  Often they will offer a choice - a main clearing bank and a Sparkasse.
In the old days, you would go into your bank with a handful of these - a clerk would complete
various forms and then you would take the completed pile over to the cashier.

These days it's computerised.  My German account is with the Deutsche Bank - they have sent me
a one-time pad with 100 numbers on it, and I can perform whatever transactions I like using
one number each time.  They use 'EC Karten' - successors to the Eurocheque guarantee cards -
for many in-person cashless transactions.

Debit cards (what the UK calls "Switch") are very much in the ascendancy - Visa and
Mastercharge (and their local licensees) are less common than in the English-speaking world.

Paper cheques are virtually unknown in Germany.  Still quite common in the UK, though.

In general, when you do business with a German company you also accept their "AGB" -
Allgemeine Geschäftsbedingungen.  These _can_ be interesing - for instance, sometimes they
give you an automatic discount of a few percent (2 to 4) if you pay very promptly.  OTOH -
they can levy interest on outstanding balances after (perhaps) 21 days.

  Phil Payne
  +44 7785 302 803
  +49 173 6242039

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