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Interest ( latin census , estimate ' ) is in the economy , the fee that the debtor the creditor as compensation for temporarily approved capital paid up.


The word interest is a loan word from an earlier property or income tax ( Latin census , literally “assessment”, from Latin censere , “estimate”), from which the census developed as a synonym for taxes at the time of the Merovingians . The interest debtor ( Latin Censit ) had to pay this levy either in grain (“Kornval”), other natural produce (“kitchen interest”; eggs, geese, chickens), as hereditary interest (today hereditary lease ) or in cash (“Pfennigzins”). With this one recorded all payments in kind or money of property, personal or sovereign kind. Today the word census stands for a census .

Interest in the sciences

Interest is an object of knowledge, especially in economics , business administration , banking , law or social psychology . Economics defines it as the price for the temporary transfer of the production factor capital . This capital transfer can take place on the one hand in the form of a loan ( loan interest , debit interest ) and on the other hand as a financial investment ( credit interest ). In the case of a loan, the interest is paid by the borrower to the lender , in the case of an investment by the debtor / issuer to the investor . For the borrower, this payment represents an interest expense ; for the lender, it represents an interest income (vice versa with negative interest ). If there is a shortage of capital or money , the interest rate is high, if there is a high surplus, it is low. On the capital market is the interest rate market interest rate on the money market according to money market rate . The key interest rate of the central banks mainly influences the money market rate.

The interest is paid to the creditors lost their own use and therefore are regarded as opportunity costs .


Interest can fall back on an eventful economic history . Religions in particular banned it, at least temporarily, allowed it again, restricted it and dealt with usury . Around 2400 BC , the Sumerians probably used the oldest term for interest (maš; German for  “calf, young goat” ). This concept of interest thus indicates wages in kind . The compound interest (mašmaš) also has its origin here. In Babylon the market interest rate was known as "şibat kârim". The Codex Hammurapi from the 18th century BC allowed interest, failure to pay could result in debt bondage . To prevent outgrowths, Hammurapi I. introduced a maximum interest rate which was 33 1/3% for barley and 20% for silver. Even then, the credit risk was expressed in the amount of the interest rate, because barley loans were considered risky because of the crop risk.

The Jewish federal book forbade interest on loans to the poor between 1000 and 800 BC ( Ex 22.24  EU ). The Deuteronomy demands: "You should not take any interest from your fellow citizens, neither interest on money, nor interest on food, nor interest on anything that can be borrowed" ( Dtn 23.20  EU ). The Tanach understood “national comrades” only to mean Jews . From this it was concluded that Jews were allowed to lend loans to non-Jews . Plato was of the opinion that interest income harmed the state. Aristotle agreed with the result. Usurers caused Solon in Greece to limit the maximum interest rate to 12% in 550 BC , and India also regulated 324 BC. Legally the interest. Moneylenders were allowed to pay interest on deposits in Judea 30 AD .

For the loan interest, the Romans did not use “census”, but Latin “usura” or Latin “fenus” . It was initially a fee for renting a defensible property ( Latin res fungibilis ). The Roman law knew with the Mutuum an interest-free loan mostly as a courtesy to relatives or friends, with which interest could only be charged separately through a stipulation . The debtor was called in Latin "debitor usurarius" . The Twelve Tables Law of 451 BC BC limited the interest to one twelfth of the loan amount ( Latin fenus unciarum ), which therefore could not exceed 8.33%. Titus Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus halved 407 BC. This interest rate ( Latin semiunciarium fenus ). In the Roman Republic in 387 BC. The "Laws of Licinius and Sextius" ( Latin Leges Liciniae Sextiae ) came into force, according to which the interest paid was credited to the capital and the remainder was repaid within 3 years. At the end of the Roman Republic around 27 BC The maximum interest rate ( Latin usura ultra alterum tantum ) was 12%, Justinian I reduced it to 6% in 533 AD. Only for sea loans ( Latin usurae maritimae ) did it provide for unlimited interest because of the associated risk. Compound interest ( Latin usurae usurarum ) was prohibited.

With the advent of Christianity , the interest payment met with strong criticism from the church , because needy people in need should receive interest-free loans ( Lk 6.35  EU , ( Lev 25.36  EU )). "Usura" received the connotation for forbidden interest in the church language . The canon law stated interest rate for oral robbery ( Latin si quis usuram acceperit, rapinam facit, vitam non vivit ). A violation of this canonical prohibition of interest resulted in excommunication , expulsion from the congregation, denial of a church burial or refusal of absolution . In his “General Admonition” ( Latin Admonitio generalis ) in March 789, Charlemagne declared the ban on interest to be a secular ban. The Islam .. Took over the Christian ban on interest and called after 622 AD this, click, not interest ( Arabic Riba ; "growth, proliferation") to take by the creditors again take multiple values, which have borrowed it ( Qur'an , 3: 130 ). According to Sura 2: 279, the borrower only has to return the principal to the lender. The Islamic interest ban has remained in Sharia law to this day.

Before 863 the Patriarch Photios I considered the Christian prohibition of interest to be wrong and explicitly allowed interest on arrears, the Byzantine-Orthodox legal scholar Theodoros Balsamon let the interest ( Greek τόκος , “young”) count as “interest” after 1193, today still in English and French for interest in common ( English interest , French intérêt ) and sometimes in German. The previous canonical interest prohibition was replaced by Pope Innocent III. renewed and tightened in 1215. Around 1268 Thomas Aquinas believed that interest was “simply from some person, ie. Ed.] Evil ”. Instead, the canonical prohibition of interest allowed the purchase of an annuity , which Hamburg city law first recognized in 1270 as being redeemable by repurchase . As early as 1532, the Imperial Court of Justice recognized that the borrower owed not only a loan but also the "accumulated interest to pay".

In England forbade Henry VII. 1512 Interest ( English usury ) and declared all existing interest-bearing transactions void. Henry VIII. Passed a law in 1545, after which the interest rate ( English interest ) as a legal compensation ( English compensation ) for monetary use ( English use ) was, during the usury ( English usury ) was illegal. It confirmed the maximum interest rate of 10% that had existed since 1198. In the Middle Ages, the Latin word interest ( German  inbetween ) referred to damage to be replaced , and thereafter also to lost profit . Henry VIII. Made his Act of 1545 for the now common even in English-speaking distinction between the regular interest ( English interest ) and the usury ( English usury ).

Jews did not need to obey the Christian rules of prohibiting interest and therefore developed into moneylenders in the High Middle Ages. The Torah allowed them to do business with interest ( Hebrew עניין) with members of other religions (non-Jews). The Reich Police Order of 1577 limited the maximum interest rate for lending money to Jews to 5%. John Napier made the first mathematical interest calculations possible in 1614 with the invention of the logarithm , and in 1617 he described the exponential growth of debt through interest.

A loosening of the interest prohibition occurred in the meantime through the Reichs of 1500, 1548 and 1577, which according to their wording allowed an interest of 5% for the rent purchase, which the general public also referred to loans. Henry VIII legalized interest payments in England in 1545 after breaking with the Pope. In 1638 the polymath Claudius Salmasius pleaded for the permissibility of interest. In France , Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully set the maximum interest rate at 6¼% in 1601. The Reich Chamber of Commerce recognized the loan interest as enforceable for the first time after the last Reich decision of 1654. In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 loans with 5% interest were declared permissible. Subsequently, German jurisprudence considered the interest prohibition abolished under customary law . In 1692 John Locke published the “Considerations on the Lowering of the Interest Rate and the Raising of the Value of Money”, which he had already written in 1668, in which he took the view that too low interest caused the financiers to hoard and too high interest reduced the profits of the merchants and one Would cause a decrease in the demand for money .

After the factual lifting of the interest prohibition there was the permitted interest ( Latin fenus ) and the usury ( Latin usura ) as an interest above the legal maximum interest rate. The word interest, introduced in Germany, came from the monastery administration. A German legal encyclopedia defined in 1738 "Interest is what is paid before the use of a sum of money or other thing in the same". In Italy , in 1750 , Ferdinando Galiani humorously described interest as “the fruit of money”, the “price for the palpitation of the heart” (of the creditor). In 1769, Cesare Beccaria made a sharp distinction between interest and interest, the former being the direct benefit of a thing, whereas interest is the "benefit of the utility" ( Italian l'utilità dell'utilità ). In past centuries, interest was due on certain days of the year (so-called interest days ) and had to be paid on the payday .

In Austria , Joseph II issued a patent on January 29, 1787 , according to which the maximum interest rates did not apply. But on December 2, 1803, Francis II introduced a new upper interest rate limit of 5% and 6%. The General Prussian Land Law (APL) of June 1794 decided on several maximum interest rates: “As a rule, only five percent of annual interest can be stipulated for loans” and “Merchants are allowed six, and Jews eight percent, interest to get a prescription ”(I 11, §§ 804 f. APL). In 1848 this limit was removed. The ABGB , which came into force in June 1811 , provided for a maximum interest rate of 6% (Section 994 ABGB), but this was no longer applicable due to the Interest Act of June 1868. The French Civil Code (CC) decided in March 1804 to be free of interest (Art. 1907 CC), but a law of September 3, 1807 set an interest rate cap of 5% (civil legal transactions) and 6% (commercial transactions), up to 1918 was valid. The Catholic Church did not officially lift the canonical prohibition of interest until 1822. In 1858 there was still a broad term, because interest was also understood to mean any “tax that rests on a farm as a real burden ...”.

In Germany there has been a state interest rate regulation since January 1937, which, with the help of the "Interest Ordinance ", prescribed maximum interest rates to the banks in the " Debit Interest Agreement ", which may not be exceeded in the lending business and which may be remunerated as a maximum in the " Credit Interest Agreement " in the deposit business , but may also be below. Debit and credit interest remained stable and there was no need for adjustment. This interest rate ordinance ended in April 1967. After the interest rate was released in April 1967, debit and credit interest rates could freely adjust to market developments , which, however , resulted in market risks and, in particular, interest rate risks for market participants .

In 1992, the Pakistani Federal Sharia Court saw all forms of interest-taking as a violation of Sharia law . Since then, legal institutions have developed in the context of Islamic finance that deal with income similar to interest (such as murabaha and mudaraba ).

Since January 2012, negative interest rates have been spreading in the euro zone , initially in the form of a negative return , but then also through a negative nominal interest rate , so that creditors have to pay an interest expense when they invest their money.

Types of Interest

Interest on money capital

Interest or similar payments are paid for a financial investment. The money market interest rate is the interest rate for short-term borrowing on the money market, especially in transactions between credit institutions ( interbank trade ) or between credit institutions and the central bank, where it is specifically called the key interest rate . Capital market interest rate is the interest rate for long-term loans on the capital market.

Interest on capital in kind

Rent is the payment for the transfer of real estate such as apartments , business premises , houses, holiday homes, garages, etc. The term rent is also used as payment for the temporary transfer of movable objects such as cars, tools, excavators, rental cars.

Lease or rent is the interest for the transfer of land and real estate that the lessee not only uses, but can also cultivate and harvest the fruits .

Leasehold interest is the regular levy for land leased under leasehold , known in Switzerland as " leasehold interest ".

Important interest rates

Statutory interest rates in Germany

If a debt is interest-bearing, but an interest rate is not expressly agreed or required by law, a statutory interest rate of 4% p.p. applies according to § 246 BGB. a.

The default interest rate is stipulated by law in § 288 BGB and is 5 percentage points p. For legal transactions in which a consumer is involved . a. above the base rate , for real estate loans to consumers according to § 497 only 2.5 percentage points p. a. above the base rate. If no consumer is involved, the default interest rate is 9 percentage points p. a. significantly higher than the base rate. For interest payable applies to § 291 of the same rate as for default interest BGB.

The interest rate for tax interest is 0.5% per month (6% p. A.) According to § 238 AO.

Central bank interest rates

The central banks use various financial instruments to control the monetary policy of their currency area with so-called key interest rates . Economic goals that are to be achieved by influencing the interest rate level are z. B. Price level stability (main goal of the ECB ) or economic growth .

Central bank interest rates include:

Market rates

For the money market in particular, these reference interest rates are determined on every trading day :

They are used as a reference and benchmark for further market rates in national and international credit transactions.

Bank and savings bank interest rates

Interest theories

Some economists have put forward theories about the origin, course, development or effects of interest , the most important of which are mentioned. In 1967 the economist Friedrich A. Lutz provided a good overview of this . Since the interest counts as the price, it has the price functions in common with it . In addition, specific functions of interest are:

Interest theories are devoted to the theoretical explanation of interest:

Classic / Neoclassical

In the understanding of classical and neoclassical economists, interest (and, more generally, capital income) fulfills an important function as an allocation mechanism, i.e. a mechanism that allows measurements and therefore provides decision-making support: A refrigerator factory at the North Pole might actually be able to cover its costs, but the lower return would be a Indication and incentive that another investment would make more sense - for the general public as well as for investors.

The yield levels in various industries (for example, airplanes , cars , information technology ) are an indicator for the shortage in the economic sense. A general ban on interest would therefore make it more difficult to find and eliminate this scarcity. Furthermore, experience from Islamic banking shows that zero interest rates are simply circumvented - capital can demand a return due to liquidity preferences, and no economic development without investment. This leads to the assumption that even the weakest in a society are ultimately better off economically in an economy without zero interest rates than in an economy that effectively prohibits and persecutes the taking of interest or capital income.

A hypothetical investor who acted for purely altruistic motives would have to use the return level to find out where he can most sustainably support the supply of goods to society - and thus the long-term reduction of economic scarcity. The idea that purely selfish and purely altruistic behavior see each other more and more similar with better knowledge of the circumstances, or the investor who, attracted by high capital income, eliminates the scarcity of the general public where it is greatest and so involuntarily acts altruistically a central element of Adam Smith's Invisible Hand and classical liberal ethics .

Declaration of interest according to Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk

The Austrian economist Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914) was one of the first to systematically examine the phenomenon of interest. When examining the question of why you charge interest at all, he found that income increases in the course of life and that you therefore expect more money back in the future for money lent today, because otherwise you would not be willing to lend money to have to be more economical.

Second, Böhm-Bawerk observed that people mostly underestimate their future needs and prefer to spend money immediately (“present day preference”). In order to persuade them to lend anyway, you have to offer them interest as compensation.

According to Böhm-Bawerk, the third reason for demanding interest is to be seen in the fact that work is very useful in the manufacture of machines, as it can, as it were , be directed into a production detour. When workers produce a machine, more can be made with it afterwards than the workers could do before. There is “additional productivity ”, an increase in productivity , and a creditor can expect the debtor to give him a “reasonable” share in it. According to this, interest can be explained by the additional profitability of the labor that is directed on a production detour. In order to pay the workers in advance, the entrepreneur needs capital , for which he has to pay interest and can also pay from the additional productivity of the work. With his own explanation of interest, Böhm-Bawerk wanted to rebut an important argument of Marxism , according to which interest is part of surplus value that is in turn gained through the exploitation of the workers by the capitalists.

According to Böhm-Bawerk, interest is not the price of money, but the price of time and rewards the lender for a hypothetical postponement of his consumption .

Explanation of interest according to Ludwig von Mises

The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises explained the interest from the subjective evaluations of the people. They prefer the elimination of an immediate dissatisfaction (e.g. hunger) to the elimination of a future dissatisfaction, therefore a certain amount of today's goods is preferred to an equal amount of future similar goods. Since one can equate a quantity of today's goods with a larger quantity of future goods in terms of value, there is a quantity difference between these goods, the interest.

Explanation of interest according to John Maynard Keynes

According to the liquidity preference theory of John Maynard Keynes , interest is based on the particular desirability of money. According to him, interest is the reward for giving up liquidity over a period of time or - which is the same - for not hoarding money .

The benefit of having money is what Keynes calls the liquidity premium of money . It consists in the fact that you can easily pay with money anywhere and anytime, but not with other things, for example with a promissory note from a loan agreement. In addition, a money owner has freedom of choice in the range of goods and services that he can purchase for his money.

Naturally, all economic operators have a preference for owning money, a liquidity preference, as JM Keynes puts it. You want to be solvent and be able to choose freely from the market. According to Keynes, the liquidity preference depends on four reasons ("motives") for holding money:

  1. Income motive ("income motive") for bridging the time between income and expenditure of income,
  2. Business motive for bridging the time between buying and selling a product,
  3. Preventive or precautionary motive ( "precautionary-motive") made provision for imminent and unforeseen expenses,
  4. Speculative motive ("speculative-motive") from the expectation of more favorable opportunities to use the money.

Income motive and business motive together called Keynes also sales motif ( "transactions-motive").

According to Keynes, whoever gives away money gives up the use of money as a universal means of payment. The advantage of having money, the liquidity premium of money , is lent by the lender to the borrower in the lending business. For the lost advantage, the lender can pay interest that represents the amount of the liquidity premium. This interest is the price that he cannot dispose of the loaned money during the term of the loan. Conversely, the borrower is willing to pay this interest for the acquired advantage of having money.

The fact that holding money causes practically no disadvantages ( stamina costs ) makes it risk-free for lending providers to withhold their money from the offer, to hoard it, as long as the interest on loans does not seem high enough to them or they expect it to rise. In this way, money is withdrawn from the economic cycle with speculative intent and kept in the speculative fund. It disappears into the so-called liquidity trap ( "liquidity trap"), as Keynes says. This reluctance prevents the relevant interest rate from falling to zero. Keynes complained that this can massively disrupt the economy. As a countermeasure, he suggested constant, moderate currency devaluation ( inflation ), which devalues ​​hoarded money and thus makes hoarding expensive.

More interest theories

In 1991, the economic historian Richard Sylla demonstrated that the yield curves in antiquity were U-shaped . Accordingly, at the beginning of a culture there was still high interest due to the great risks, the interest level fell when a society stabilized and rose when a culture declined . Interest rates were around 4% in the Roman Empire when it reached the height of its power by the 2nd century. After the fall of Rome (AD 476), interest rates peaked there.

  • Fructification theory ("soil fertility theory"): Interest as a substitute for soil fertility ( ARJ Turgot , France, 1727–1781),
  • Abstinence theory ("abstinence theory"): Interest as compensation for renouncing consumption ( NW Senior , England, 1790–1864),
  • Marginal productivity theory : interest corresponds to the marginal productivity of capital (JB Clark, USA, 1847–1938),
  • Primary interest theory (money-surplus value theory): Interest due to the higher demand for liquid means of payment ( S. Gesell , 1862–1930),
  • Dynamic interest theory : interest corresponds to variable corporate profits ( JA Schumpeter , Austria, 1883–1950),
  • Loanable funds theory ("Theory of loanable funds"): Interest rate is determined by loan supply and demand ( BG Ohlin , Sweden, 1899–1979).
  • Property theory of interest : Interest compensates a lender for the loss of the “property premium”, an intangible security yield from property, which consists in its “free sellability, pledgeability and resilience”. ( Gunnar Heinsohn / Otto Steiger , Germany)

Interest as a word component

There are a variety of compound words that contain interest as a word component. On the one hand, the word interest stands for the interest rate , given as a percentage per time interval , usually per year. On the other hand, the word interest stands for the amount of interest , i.e. the specific amount of money that results from the amount of the interest-bearing capital and the agreed interest rate. Compound interest is the co-interest of the interest that is added to the capital; this addition of the interest on the capital is called interest capitalization . Mathematically, a distinction is made in this context between simple or linear interest and exponential interest (compound interest).

Nominal interest is the interest rate agreed or paid for a loan ( loan interest , debit interest ), credit interest is the interest paid on bank balances , real interest is the interest rate after deduction of the inflation rate. The real interest rate can be negative even if the nominal interest rate is positive, if the inflation rate is higher than the nominal interest rate (see also real variable ). The effective interest rate is the interest rate that results from the inclusion of the nominal interest rate and other price-determining factors, such as fees . The interest rate structure is the dependence of the interest rate on the duration of an investment . The negative interest must eventually by a creditor ( lender ) to the debtors ( borrowers are paid).

An interim interest may arise if a debtor a liability before the date of maturity pays. The interest rate is the essential part of an interest calculation , in which one has to choose between different interest calculation methods ; the interest structure reflects different interest rates. A reference interest rate is a reference and orientation variable. The default interest rate is to be paid by the debtor to the obligee in the event of default in payment . The interest level of market interest rates on whether a high or low interest rates is decided.

Interest rate criticism

Since the beginning of coinage there has been criticism of interest and reservations about moneylenders. Aristotle regarded interest as unnatural.

“Hence a third form of gainful employment, lending money for interest, is hated with the greatest justification; because the profit comes from the coin itself, not from the use for which it was created, because it was created to facilitate barter. ... But interest is money created by money. Therefore, this form of acquisition is most against nature. "

- Aristotle : Politics, Book I, 1258b, 5-14; My publishing house 2012

In the 18th century, the Welsh philosopher and economist Richard Price used the thought experiment of Josephspfennig to illustrate the criticism of the exponential increase in the money supply due to compound interest effects , but ignored certain framework conditions and effects .

The businessman, financial theorist and social reformer Silvio Gesell proposed the free economy theory. Thereafter, the interest should be minimized as possible. This free money theory was only used in individual local experiments (the best known in 1932/33 in Wörgl , Austria ), but it still has supporters today and has been receiving attention in the media since the financial crisis from 2007 .

In the anti-Semitic cliché of the greedy Jewish moneylender, criticism of interest rates and racism are combined. In the years after the First World War, the National Socialist Gottfried Feder , who coined the catchphrase " Breaking interest bondage ", made a particular impression. What was meant was "interest bondage of Jewish world usury capital".

Modern German-speaking representatives of interest rate criticism usually argue economically or socially, such as Dieter Suhr , Helge Peukert , Bernd Senf , Helmut Creutz and Franz Hörmann . Interest rate critics believe that interest rates are constantly widening the gap between rich and poor. In addition, periodic economic and debt crises would inevitably arise, from which wars could follow. Other points of criticism are theft of time and wages, the need to grow , the (almost) exponential increase in national debt, the unequal treatment due to the lack of unit interest, the passing on of hidden interest, which is contained in all products, to the end consumer, which leads to general increases in price. In part, the current interest system is compared with a Ponzi scheme .

Legal situation in Germany

The BGB does not offer a legal definition of the term “interest”, but rather the term is assumed to be known in the individual relevant regulations. The BGB knows a statutory interest rate , the base rate as a reference value , the default interest rate and the compound interest rate . According to the case law of the Reichsgericht (RG), which was initially followed by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH), “interest” was to be understood as the ongoing remuneration to be paid for the use of a capital existing in money or other justifiable property, which is broken down into a fraction of the capital is calculated and the amount is determined in advance. The BGH later modified this definition in two crucial points. In 1978, he defined interest as “the payment of a monetary remuneration required for the transfer of the capital that is independent of profit and sales, but is determined by the term”.

It is no longer necessary for the interest owed to be paid in successive installments. Rather, the sum in question can also be paid all at once; it is even possible to withhold the total amount from the loan amount to be disbursed from the outset. Ultimately, it is sufficient if the amount of the interest owed can only be determined at the time it arises. This makes it possible for money loans to link the interest rate to a moving market factor - for example to a reference interest rate such as EURIBOR or LIBOR . Thus today interest is generally defined as a term-dependent , but profit and turnover-independent, remuneration to be paid in money for the possibility of using capital, which is expressed as a fraction of the capital.

According to the prevailing opinion, interest is the term-dependent , profit and sales-independent, remuneration to be paid in money or other reasonable items for the use of capital made available for a period of time. The interest rate may also be made dependent on the outcome of an uncertain event. Otherwise, the contractually agreed interest rate is not limited by law, because the free interest rate agreement is part of the freedom of contract . Legal restrictions on the level of interest are immorality and usury . Not even the similarity of interest and principal is required. The essential characteristic remains the accessory nature of the interest to a main claim, which mostly exists as a capital debt. Without it, interest cannot arise independently. The loan must also have been paid out. In relation to the capital, the interest is usually a secondary debt that is renewed regularly. If interest has arisen, it becomes independent of the main claim and can be sued , assigned , pledged or attached independently . If the main claim expires, the interest obligation ends immediately.

Whether a service is interest or not does not depend on its designation (“ fee , commission , expenses ”), but depends on its real economic purpose. No interest is therefore remuneration for special services in the procurement and disbursement of capital, such as so-called commitment interest as well as processing and administration fees . The jurisprudence has always refused to accept other types of services as interest, such as profit or turnover shares, which, regardless of the amount of the capital contribution and its importance for the capital taker, are based solely on the success achieved by the capital taker. The interest includes overdraft interest and a one-time fee for the installment loan . A discount (damnum) that leads to a lowering of the nominal interest rate is part of the interest rate, as it has developed into a calculation factor for calculating interest rates in banking practice. The Federal Fiscal Court also bases its disagio on the interest rate concept of civil law. In questions of usury , the focus is on the effective interest rate, which also includes all costs and ancillary services, including loan brokerage costs.

Interest rate change clauses

Interest rate change clauses or interest rate sliding clauses are price adjustment clauses that allow banks to subsequently change the price set when the contract was concluded. These are independent price agreements that are intended to change an agreed interest rate. The banks hereby pursue the legally recognized goal of passing on changes in interest rates on the capital and money markets to their customers without the need to amend the contract. These clauses have already been the subject of the highest court rulings of the BGH several times . Such interest rate change clauses occur both in loan agreements and in investments . For an interest rate adjustment clause in the lending business that is sufficient according to Section 307 of the German Civil Code and Section 492 (1) Clause 5 No. 5 of the German Civil Code, the necessary calculation parameters must be specified. The base interest rate according to § 247 BGB, EURIBOR , LIBOR or EONIA are suitable as reference interest rates . If a bank unilaterally reserves the right to change the interest rate in a form-based loan agreement, such a clause is generally to be interpreted in such a way that it only enables an adjustment (increase or decrease) of the contractual interest rate to changes in the bank's refinancing conditions due to the capital market in accordance with Section 315 BGB. Such a clause withstands judicial content control .

According to § 308 No. 4 BGB, the agreement of a right to change the interest rate of the credit institutions is ineffective, unless the agreement of the change or deviation is reasonable for the customer taking into account the interests of the banks. Therefore, such unreasonable clauses in savings contracts are void . The reasonableness of an interest rate adjustment clause is to be affirmed if the interests of the banks outweigh or are at least equivalent to the interests of the customer typical for the respective business. This presupposes a version of the clause that cannot be used to justify unreasonable changes and generally also requires that the customer has at least a certain degree of calculability of the possible changes in interest rates.

The banks 'and savings banks' “appreciable interest” in adjusting interest rates in times of volatile capital markets did nothing to change this. They can be expected to select one or a combination of them from the reference values ​​of the capital market and to make them recognizable for the customer and expressly the yardstick for future interest rate changes.

Refinancing-related interest rate clauses

The case law recognizes that, in particular, the interest rate must be adapted to the changing and, when the contract is signed, future refinancing options that are usually not manageable. The BGH has so far interpreted bank loans with unrestricted interest rate clauses so that they only allow the lending banks to change the interest rate in accordance with the capital market-related changes in their refinancing conditions. A legitimate interest of the credit institutions in adapting their interest rates to the changing circumstances of the capital market not only for new contracts but also for existing contracts has been recognized several times by the Federal Court of Justice for Lending. Such an interest is also to be recognized in principle for the deposit business , but must correspond to the guidelines developed by the BGH and in particular have an appropriate reference value.

Credit-oriented interest rate clauses

Credit-related interest rate clauses link the amount of the interest rate to be paid by the borrower to the borrower's default risk resulting from the current rating . This alone can influence his own creditworthiness and thus this type of interest rate change. A change in interest rates is therefore not triggered by a change in market interest rates, but solely by any changes in the rating of the borrower. In order to take this into account, an agreement is usually made in the loan agreement, according to which the previously defined credit margins should also change depending on the rating changes that occur (so-called "margin grids" or "margin ratchets"; see covenants ). This is intended to ensure that the credit margins should automatically increase with the increase in the default risk (i.e. with a deterioration in rating) and vice versa, without the need for new contractual agreements.

This passing on of the risk of a change in creditworthiness to the borrower is recognized, as the claims for additional collateral show. The subsequent collateralization is also linked to a deterioration in creditworthiness, as can occur due to a significant deterioration in the financial situation. This type of interest rate change clause is also recognized by case law. The change to a different rating class associated with a change in an individual default risk (“ rating migration ”) is an objective reason for a change in interest rates.


Web links

Wiktionary: Zins  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Ulrike Köbler, Werden, Wandel und Wesen des German private law vocabulary , 2010, p. 177
  2. Oliver Brand, The international interest law of England , 2002, p. 11 f.
  3. Dirk A. Zetzsche, Principles of Collective Investment , 2015, p. 228
  4. ^ Plato, Nomoi 5, 742 CE
  5. Aristotle, Politics 1, 9 (1257a ff.)
  6. ^ Smith Homans (Ed.), The Bankers Magazine and Statistical Register , Volume 9, 1855, p. 250
  7. Peter Landau, Zins , in: Hand Wortbuch zur dt. Rechtsgeschichte, Volume 5, 1996, Sp. 1709
  8. Julius Weiske (Ed.): Legal Lexicon for Jurists of all German States , 1861, p. 419
  9. ^ Heinrich Honsell, Römisches Recht , 2015, p. 95
  10. ^ Rolf Sprandel, Zins IV , in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie, XXXVI, 2004, Col. 681
  11. Karl Friedrich Ferdinand Kniep, The debtor's morality according to Roman and present-day law , Volume 2, 1872, p. 228
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  21. Peter Landau, Zins , in: Hand Wortbuch zur dt. Rechtsgeschichte, Volume 5, 1996, Sp. 1710
  22. ^ John Napier, Rabdologiae , 1617, p. 114
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  27. ^ Thomas Hayme, General Teutsches juristisches Lexicon , 1738, p. 1346
  28. Ferdinando Galiani, Della moneta: libri cinque , 1750, p. 353
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  30. ^ Max von Oesfeld, Prussia in constitutional, cameralistic and economic relations , 1858, p. 201
  31. Mahmood-ur-Rahman Faisal vs. Government of Pakistan, 44 PLD, 1992, 1
  32. Oliver Brand, Das Internationale Zinsrecht Englands , 2002, p. 139
  33. Friedrich A. Lutz, Zinstheorie , 1967, p. 9 ff.
  34. Sidney Homer / Richard Sylla, A History of Interest Rates , 1991, pp. 135 ff.
  35. ^ William J. Bernstein, The Birth of Prosperity , 2005, p. 50
  36. Bernd von Maydell , Munich Commentary on the BGB , 3rd edition 1993, § 246 Rn. 1
  37. RG 86, 219.
  38. BGH, judgment of November 16, 1978, Az .: III ZR 47/77 = NJW 1979, 540
  39. Claus-Wilhelm Canaris, The term interest rate and its legal meaning , NJW 1978, 1891. Building on this, BGH NJW 1979, 804 , 806
  40. Karl Larenz , Law of Obligations I , 14th edition 1987, § 12 VIII, p. 180
  41. Claus-Wilhelm Canaris, Bank Contract Law , 2nd ed. 1981, para. 1323
  42. BGH NJW-RR 1992, 592; Otto Palandt / Christian Grüneberg, BGB commentary, 73rd edition, 2014, § 246 marginal no. 2; Canaris, NJW 1978, 1891 (1892)
  43. Staudinger / AndreasBlaschczok, BGB Commentary , 1997, § 246 Rn. 12
  44. BGH WM 2006, 429 , 431
  45. Peter Derleder / Kai-Oliver Knops / Heinz-G. Bamberger (Ed.), Handbook on German and European Banking Law , 2003, p. 230.
  46. RGZ 86, 219
  47. BGH BB 1971, 107
  48. BGH NJW-RR 1986, 469
  49. ^ BGH WM 1986, 9
  50. BGHZ 85, 61
  51. BGHZ 118, 126
  52. BGHZ 104, 102 , 105
  53. BGHZ 111, 287 , 288
  54. BFHE 86, 32 , BStBl. Part III 1966, 375
  55. BGHZ 101, 380 , 391
  56. Wolfram Oletz, creditworthiness- oriented interest rate change clauses according to Basel II , 2006, p. 125
  57. BGH WM 2004, 825
  58. ^ BGH, judgment of March 6, 1986, Az .: III ZR 195/84 = BGHZ 97, 212
  59. ^ BGH, judgment of February 17, 2004, Az .: XI ZR 140/03
  60. ^ BGH, judgment of February 17, 2004, Az .: XI ZR 140/03 = BGHZ 158, 149
  61. BGHZ 97, 212, 216
  62. BGH WM 2000, 1141 , 1142 f.
  63. BGH WM 2000, 1141, 1142
  64. General Terms and Conditions for Banks No. 13 para. 2 / AGB-Sparkassen no. 22 para. 1
  65. Wolfram Oletz, Creditworthiness- Oriented Interest Rate Change Clauses according to Basel II , 2006, p. 185
  66. BGH WM 1993, 2003 , 2004
  67. Peter Derleder, Transparency and Equivalence with Bank Contractual Interest Rate Adjustments , in: WM 2001, 2029, 2032