REPORT ON THE ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION ACTIVITY AS AT 30.06.2020

During the first six months of 2020, as many as 276 consumers went through the entire conciliation process (application filing, negotiation, final resolution accepted by both parties), or reached an amicable settlement directly with banks/NBFIs, having first approached ABDRC. The situation is similar to 2019, when 287 Romanians were reported in one of these two situations during the same period. Furthermore, as of Q1 2020, legal entities can also refer to ABDRC cases related to payment services and electronic money issuing.

ABDRC has already received two such applications so far, but the financial institutions involved, which could have entered negotiations thereon, rejected them.

Close to 1,330 Romanian have approached the Alternative Banking Dispute Settlement Centre (ABDRC) in the first six months of this year to find amicable solutions in their relations with banks and NBFIs. Compared to the first six months of 2019, consumers filed 26% more applications.

Of the total number of applications received in Q2 2020, 593 concerned different issues in relations with banks, whereas 193 concerned different issues in relations with NBFIs.

The total number of cases formed in the end of Q2 2020 reached 272,of which 261 involved banks, and only 11 such casefile concerned NBFIs. Of these cases, 116 concluded with a resolution (the parties accepted the solution proposed by the conciliator), and additional 131 cases are currently in progress. In 20 cases, the parties rejected the solution the conciliator rendered and a report was issued, whereas in 5 cases, the parties withdrew from the procedure.

Furthermore, 160 applications were settled amicably by traders, having first approached ABDRC (traders negotiated directly with consumers), broken down as follows: 136 applications settled amicably with banks, and 24 applications settled amicably with NBFIs.

In March 2020, the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre celebrated its fourth anniversary of operational activity.

In the end of this year’s second quarter, we counted approximately 3,260 queries by phone.

The break-down of applications on banks/NBFIs is as follows:

Banks:

  • 1,038 compliant applications;
  • 95 non-compliant applications;
  • 400 queries for various information.

Classification of the 1,038 compliant applications:

  • 261 cases created in the end of Q2 2020;
  • 120 in screening phase – documents are being reviewed;
  • 136 applications were settled amicably by the parties, but this after the consumer having first referred the case to ABDRC;
  • 521 cases were closed.

Classification of the 261 casefiles in the procedure with proposed solution/conciliation:

  • 116 resolutions rendered – the parties reached an agreement;
  • 70 casefiles in the phase of discussions with the parties;
  • 17 reports – the parties failed to reach an agreement;
  • 52 preliminary casefiles;
  • 6 casefiles in which one party withdrew from the procedure.

Means of filing compliant applications:

  • 747 were submitted via the app (website);
  • 245 were emailed;
  • 24 were mailed;
  • 22 were brought to, and registered by consumers with the office of ABDRC.

NBFIs:

  • 289 compliant applications;

Classification of the 289 compliant applications:

  • 11 cases created in the end of Q2 2020;
  • 132 in screening phase – documents are being reviewed;
  • 24 applications were settled amicably between the NBFI and the consumer concerned, however after the having first consumer approached ABDRC;
  • 122 were closed – rejected by the NBFIs;

Classification of the 11 casefiles in the procedure with proposed solution/conciliation:

  • 0 resolutions rendered – the parties reached an agreement;
  • 9 casefiles in the phase of discussions with the parties;
  • 2 reports – the parties failed to reach an agreement;
  • 0 preliminary casefiles;
  • 0 casefiles in which one party withdrew from the procedure.

Means of filing compliant applications:

  • 40 were filed by email;
  • 230 were submitted via the app (website);
  • 10 were mailed;
  • 9 were brought to, and registered by consumers with the office of ABDRC.

The applications received from consumers covered the following topics:

Problems in connection with credit products:

  • Repayments (fees/commissions, interest);
  • Reduction of loan balance/debt/installation, or writing off thereof;
  • Rescheduling/refinancing/staging-out;
  • Agreement renegotiation/rebalancing (including in case of hardships);
  • Finding a solution to address the problems (in general);
  • Finding a solution to address the problems generated by the pandemics;
  • Conversion of the loan currency;
  • Problems with insurance policies (bancassurance);
  • Interest recalculation;
  • Payment commitments;
  • Maturity acceleration;
  • Credit Office (deregistration from CO);
  • Removal of certain clauses.

Operational problems:

  • Problems with operation of the ATMs (including repayment of amounts);
  • Problems in connection with bank transfers and repayment of transaction fees;
  • Repayment of amounts in case of processing errors;
  • Recovery of amount wrongly transferred by consumers (internet banking);
  • Provision of clarifications as to the means of calculation applied to the amounts withdrawn by banks from the credit card account;
  • Other card-related problems (cancellation/name change);
  • Problems in connection with the exchange rate and interests charged when using the cards abroad;
  • Problems regarding inter-banking transfers.

Problems related to other types of activities:

  • Problems in connection with forced execution (suspensions/stays of proceedings);
  • Requests to be issued documents (repayment schedules, statement of accounts, etc.);
  • Repayment of garnished amounts;
  • Mortgage deregistration;
  • Suspension of instalments (pursuant to the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 37/2020).

Applications are closed when traders refused the settlement of the disputes via the ADR procedure, and reasons for closing fall within several categories:

Good reasons (main) – the application concerns:

  • deregistration of entries from the Credit Office;
  • “First House” loans;
  • assigned claims;
  • the state premium under saving-credit contracts.

Reasons related to consumers:

  • selection of a trader the business of which is not regulated by the National Bank of Romania;
  • selection of a trader they don’t have commercial relations with;
  • the information/documents required for resolving the application have not been supplied.

Other reasons:

  • pending court proceedings;
  • forced execution procedures have already been initiated;
  • traders made several offers, but all of them were turned down by consumers (before approaching ABDRC), and traders maintain their point of view in the initial answer sent to consumers.

NOTE:

The interest shown by consumers in ABDRC is above what we observed in the same period of last year, including in the aftermath of the pandemic-triggered financial distress. The figures in the end of H1 of this year, compared to those of the same period of last year, are 26% better in terms of the number of applications received. If we are to look into the cases resolved (under resolutions, or by amicable settlement after an initial referral to ABDRC), the situation is similar to that of last year, with the number of conciliation cases formed going slightly down, but with more and more amicable (direct) settlement between financial and banking institutions and consumers.

The first half of 2020 observes a monthly average above the average of the first half of 2019, but also above the all-2019 average number of applications.

Statistical information about H1 2020:





CONCLUSIONS:

The ABDRC services continue to be accessed by increasingly more Romanians. Benefits of conciliation: the court proceedings avoided and the continued contractual relations between parties, the short case settlement time (less than 90 days), the procedure is free of charge for consumers, and the expertise of conciliators are important benefits for both consumers and the financial and banking institutions involved in these negotiations, particularly during economically difficult times, like the ones we had to cope with during the second quarter of the year. In this context, the conclusions drawn for the first six months of the year are as follows:

  • The high number of applications reported in H1 2020 vs. H1 2019 (+26%) is driven also by the months marked by the sanitary crisis. Many consumers became unemployed/furloughed, or their work was suspended, causing the number of referrals to the Centre to grow in an attempt to seek and finding, together with banks/NBFIs a solution for the difficult times we are all going through. Thus, while in May last year ABDRC received in average 41 negotiation application a week, in the last week of May this year, consumers filed as many as122 applications to the Centre.We speak here of an all time high of the more than four years of operation of ABDRC. Thus, in May 2020, ABDRC received in average 86 applications a week, more than double the average figure reported for the same month of last year. The weekly average remained high at 55 applications also in June. For instance,Q2 2020 is the quarter with the most compliant applications, meaning 786 that ABDRC has seen to date since it started to operate.
  • The number of cases resolved has gone slightly down compared to H1 2019 under the effect of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 37/2020. And this because this piece of legislation requires that the payment deferral applications should be filed directly to banks, and many consumers pursued this avenue to have payment of their instalments deferred/suspended. For this reason, we expect a further increase in the number of both applications and conciliation cases after the expiry of the maximum 9-month instalment payment suspension term.
  • The increasing number of amicable (direct) settlements, having first referred the matter to ABDRC, could be again an effect of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 37/2020, because some consumers filed their instalment payment suspension applications via ABDRC, considering that these did not involved any conciliation/negotiation between the bank and the consumer, but just enforcement as such of legal provisions. Nevertheless, there were consumers who filed applications that covered both instalment payment suspension, as well as other issues regarding their loan agreements, such as reduction or removal of fees, or reduction of the interest rate or the principal amount. Another category who sought the support of ABDRC includes the consumers who did not fall within the scope of the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 37/2020. Thus, we have also consumers who preferred to approach ABDRC instead of making use of the Ordinance’s provisions, because the solutions that can be potentially found free of charge with the aid of the Centre cover the entire loan term, not just this year. The fact that, when the ABDRC is involved, applications are tackled on a case-by-case basis by banks, and conciliators render “customized” solutions can really make a difference.
  • During the first six months of the year, several banks publicly voiced their support for the conciliation procedure, and urged their clients to approach ABDRC when they experience difficulties in repaying loans. Of these, BCR, BRD, Banca Transilvania, ING, Raiffeisen and CEC Bank have all made themselves available to negotiate with consumers via ABDRC.
  • During the first half of the year, ABDRC saw all-time-high figures in terms of the benefits obtained by the consumers further to applications concerning loan agreements in RON and CHF. Thus, a consumer from Bucharest had a debt of RON 298,000 (approximately EUR 62,000) written off further to negotiations with the bank, with the mediation of ABDRC. In this particular case, the bank accepted to write off the entire debt that the consumer had still to pay. The same happened also in another social case of Oradea, where the bank wrote off CHF 51,930. A third case involving a significant amount was reported in June, when a bank wrote off CHF 43,000 and closed the loan for a family of Bucharest who was going through difficult financial times.
  • During the first half of the year, ABDRC adjusted its work to the conditions demanded by authorities. Thus, more than 90% of the Centre’s work was moved online, and conciliators continued to remotely facilitate the negotiations between consumers and banks/NBFIs (via email and over the phone). Additionally, the IT tool (which went live in July 2018, and is used to manage the applications and casefiles directly on the ABDRC website) proved its efficiency during this time when the Centre was able to continue to smoothly mediate the relation between consumers and traders.
  • The developments of the past years point to a significant reduction in the number of applications registered with ABDRC but refused by banks (no casefile formed): from 60% in 2016 down to 40% in 2018, and to only 31% in 2020. During the first six months of the year, the share of applications that were unreasonably closed by banks dropped to 29%, and the recommendation that ABDRC makes to both banks and NBFIs is to strive to bring this percentage below 20% by the end of the year. This is an actionable objective, so much the more that there are already large banks the rejection rate of which ranges have already dropped below 10%.
  • The first half of the year saw the NBFIs rather unwilling to conciliate. Thus, of the 289 applications concerning NBFIs received in the first six months of the year, only 11 were accepted for conciliation. Unfortunately, in none of these cases, the parties managed to reach an agreement. When it comes to NBFIs, more than 70% of the applications are unreasonably closed.
  • An important share of the closed applications have been rejected for valid reasons. For instance, since 2018 and to date, close to 600 applications have concerned the Credit Office (of which, 220 in the first six months of this year alone). We would like to remind you that most of the applications concerning the Credit Office, the First House programmed, assigned loans have been rejected because, on a case-by-case basis, there is an applicable special piece of legislation which gives but limited, if no, actual room for negotiation.
  • The share of cases concluded with a resolution further to negotiations (in which the parties accepted the solution proposed by the conciliator) is at approximately 86%.
  • As of Q1 2020, ABDRC can also address conciliation applications received from legal entities related to payment services and electronic money issuing. While two such applications have already been received by ABDRC, unfortunately, these were not accepted by the recipient financial institutions. We believe that, as it had happened with natural persons back in 2016, conciliation for legal entities is on to a slow start. Nevertheless, the economic conditions left behind by the pandemics would render necessary, if not even critical, resolution of such cases outside the courts of law, with significantly lower financial and time efforts.

The WEBSITE www.csalb.ro makes available also for legal entities an online tool, which allows for faster and smoother submission of the conciliation applications.On the first page of the website, consumers are prompted to access this application by filling in an application. The documents entered in the registration form are uploaded into the app, and their processing time is approximately one hour. By email, the classic procedure, documents used to be processed in approximately one day. The online application was setup in observance of the principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

TheAlternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre (ABDRC) is an independent non-governmental, apolitical, and not-for-profit legal entity of public interest established under the Government Ordinance no. 38/2015 on alternative resolution of disputes between consumers and traders, which transposes at domestic level Directive 2013/11/EU on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes and amending Regulation (EC) no. 2006/2004 and Directive 2009/22/EC.

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