New website lets people know if they have unclaimed money from voucher privatisation era

A new website called Zapomenuté miliardy (Forgotten billions) offers Czechs the chance to find out if they own any unclaimed shares distributed during the privatisation era of 1990s. Thousands of people have since found their unclaimed money.

Following the Velvet Revolution, Czechoslovakia chose to switch from a communist system of state planning to a market economy. A system known as voucher privatisation was implemented in Czechoslovakia in 1992 and later in the Czech Republic in 1994 according to which over 6 million citizens received free shares in what were until then state-owned businesses. It was the largest transfer of wealth from public to private hands in modern Czech history.

Now, a quarter-century later, a new website has been set up which offers people the possibility to look up if they still own shares, or have unclaimed dividends associated with the vouchers that they would have received during the privatisation period. According to Daniel Surmař, the author of the Zapomenute miliardy project, there are up to CZK 10 billion on these accounts.

All the user has to do is register on the website, filling out a form that includes some basic personal details. The system then searches if there are any unclaimed shares for this person or their heir. The service is free unless the system finds that the individual does indeed possess unclaimed money in shares. If this is the case then a commission fee is charged and the individual can choose whether to sell the shares over the website, or keep hold of them.

80,000 people have registered on the website thus far, with roughly 20 percent of users discovering that they are eligible to claim shares.

One 70-year-old woman was able to claim CZK 239,000 through Zapomenuté miliardy. The highest claim has so far been worth CZK 407,000. In total, CZK 320 million crowns have been claimed since the website started operating a month ago, an average of CZK 20,000 per successful user.

Zapomenuté miliardy is a project developed by the Brno-based start-up Stock Convertor.