Don't believe anything you hear about banking in Italy. It is far, far, worse than that. No wonder they're terrified of letting in competition. It would blow away one of the cosiest scams for parting fools from their money.

I realize I am particularly sensitive about this right now, having just returned from the bank to pay my rent. But it is outrageous. A charge of more than 4 euros to make an electronic transfer. The landlord will not accept a cheque. And the total varies from month to month (heating &c) so a standing order (also expensive) is out of the question.

As for internet banking, fuggeddaboutit.

And then there are all the other charges: 13 euros a month just for having an account; 2 euros to send me a letter saying my salary has arrived; another for sending me a statement; most egregious of all, using an ATM to withdraw money from my own bank costs me 2.52 euros if I choose to do it at the weekend. Like, when else am I forced to used an ATM to get money?

But the absolute acme of rip-offs is the charge for topping up a mobile phone, from which there is simply no escape. Buy a scratch and sniff card and there's an extra 5 euros fee. It doesn't go to the person who sells you the card, I've established that. It can't actually be a fee for anything, because you dial and you put in the secret code and machines do the rest. It is a simple rip off.

It is nice to be able to use an ATM to top up one's phone, as one can here, but there is still the same flat-rate rip-off of 5 euros per transaction. I have to do the work, keying in the numbers (including a superfluous zero that hasn't been needed to make the call for a few years, but that the software -- despite the fees -- somehow has not been updated to reflect). The bank's computer talks to the phone company's computer, and seconds later I have the credit. And I have to pay for the privilege.

Worst yet, this is a purely regressive tax. I can afford to bung 150 euros into my phone at a time (and hope it doesn't get stolen). So the 5 euro fee is, if not acceptable at least bearable. What about the poor saps who can only afford to top up 25 euros at a time? They pay 5 euros a pop too.

Like I say, outrageous. But what's a person to do?

24 July 2017: Things are a bit better now, but they're still not great.

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