Atypical cases handled by ABDRC: Some consumers use negotiations to obtain clarifications and explanations from banks
- Dec 22, 2020
- In Press releases
By December 2020, the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre (ABDRC) observed a tenfold increase in the number of applications for negotiations with banks and NBFIs compared to 2016 – its first year of operation (2,430 applications reported in the beginning of December 2020 v 235 applications in 2016). The effects of the sanitary crisis and the decisions postponing payment of instalments have taken their toll on the appetite of banks and NBFIs to negotiate, bringing it down to the level of 2018. Thus, only a quarter of the applications were accepted by banks and NBFIs for negotiation (545 casefiles formed before December 2020), meaning 20% fewer than last year. Even in such difficult conditions, not all consumers approaching ABDRC seek financial benefits from the banks they negotiate with.
Some of them only want to have contract clauses clarified, or be explained the decisions made by the credit institution.
Consumers asking banks only for clarification of contract clauses or to substantiate their decisions:
- Sidonia Fifor, Craiova: “I am civic-minded person, and I want to see things moving and that we are shown respect. I had already approached the National Consumer Protection Authority (NCPA) with different issues. But I felt the need for an institution I could turn to for financial issues. I had no conflict with a bank per se to report to ABDRC, but some one-off things that displeased me. For instance, I had a personal loan which I made early payments for, but they waited for two months before reducing my instalment. I felt that this was not fair because when I initially got my loan, I started paying interest from day one, and now when I made early payments, I can only enjoy the benefits after several weeks. Via your Centre, I asked the bank for explanations, and the discussions I had with the conciliator helped me understand how the bank processes early payments. I was delighted with your professional approach and thoroughness, with registration number, exchange of email, and ongoing communication about the progress of my case. Not to mention that it was all free of charge.”
- Mohamet Kamara, Bucharest: “It’s incredible how much I struggled to address a perfectly trivial matter with the bank in March, and with your help it was solved in two days. My problem started after the bank approved me a 3-month payment deferral, but the dates written in the repayment schedule were different from the dates appearing in the bank’s system. Because of this, I appeared with overdue debts to I the bank, while I knew we had agreed upon a postponement. During our 6-month arguments, they never mentioned I could approach ABDRC, but only invited to file complaints before courts of law. I wasn’t aware that this Centre existed, otherwise I would have approached it long before. Now I have another problem with a shopping card. I want to have it structured, but again it seems impossible for me to get to talk to them about such a simple matter.”
- Sorin Gheorghe, Bârlad: “I managed to have solved a rather minor problem that it wasn’t worth going to court for. The amount was not large, and it was free of charge for me via ABDRC. About two weeks passed since the time when I filed the application until I received the final resolution. I claimed back the loan management and casefile review fees. Under this resolution, I will not pay both the management fee (and I will get back what I paid in years 2007-2010) and the casefile review fee any longer. The benefits amount to approximately EUR 3,100. I had been aware of ABDRC for some time because I looked into the matter. An additional benefit was my communication with the conciliator who was very eager to help me, and explained to me things I would have never considered otherwise.”
Camelia Popa, ABDRC conciliator: “It seems that we are now witnessing the first signs of consumers’ stronger financial education and understanding of the role of ABDRC, the underlying mechanism of the negotiations with banks, as well as the rights they have under the contract and the conciliation framework put in place by the Centre. The number of applications that do not pursue recovery of amounts of money, but matters of principle, is also increasing. People want to be respected by banks, they want to receive explanations about their contracts, and I believe this a huge step forward in improving the financial and banking services. In fact, it is the consumer who forces banks to improve their services, to go digital, to train their staff and to render more professional their relationships with the bank’s clients. This is why some consumers seem surprised that the dialogue with banks in ABDRC is different from what they were used to receive. It is true, however, that in conciliation, they enjoy also the expertise of conciliator that they wouldn’t otherwise obtain when dealing with banks directly, but this is the model of dialog and understanding of grievances we should strive to streamline.”
Courts could recommend consumers and banks to negotiate via ABDRC before entering into court proceedings:
For 2021, an important push to negotiate could come from the Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case Oros (C-269/19). CJEU urges the national courts to invite the parties to negotiate to determine the method of calculating the interest rate, provided that the national court “sets out the framework for those negotiations and that those negotiations seek to establish an effective balance between the rights and obligations of the parties to the contract taking into account in particular the objective of consumer protection”.
Alexandru Păunescu, President of ABDRC Steering Board: “We believe that this judgment of CJEU gives a new impetus to the very application of Directive 2013/11/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2013 on alternative dispute resolution for consumer disputes, which was the basis for establishing ABDRC. At the same time, we also believe that when the CJEU judgment makes reference to “sets out the framework for those negotiations“, it could refer to an institutional framework already established with the setting up of the Centre. Moreover, the fact that these negotiations aim to “establish an effective balance between the rights and obligations of the parties to the contract taking“, leads as to think that these negotiations should be conducted in observance of the fairness principles, which is precisely what the conciliators ABDRC works with do in practice. To sum up, ABDRC could be precisely the destination that the courts of law could point the parties to when they invite them to negotiate.”
Top counties with the highest number of negotiation applications
57% of the consumers who filed applications to ABDRC this year were men, and the largest share (34%) was accounted for by consumers in the age band 35-44 years.
The highest number of applications came from Bucharest (26%), county of Argeș (11%) and county of Ilfov (5%). To date, consumers of Iași have filed 81 applications, and those of Cluj 79, each of these two counties accounting for approximately 4% of the total number of requests. Other counties, such as Bihor, Prahova, Timiș, Constanța or Brașov, appear on average with 70 applications registered in 2020.
Since the beginning of the year, close to 5,400 consumers have asked for information from the Centre’s Call Center (021 9414). 37% of them placed a called having first seen the phone number on a bank’s website, and 31% asked for information about how we could be of assistance to them.
About ABDRC: ABDRC is an entity set up under a European Directive, and intermediates, free of charge and in not more than three months, negotiations between consumers and banks or NBFIs, for contracts/agreements in progress. Consumers from any county of the country may file applications with the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre (ABDRC) filling-in an online form directly on the website www.csalb.ro. When the bank accepts to enter the conciliation/negotiation procedure, a conciliator is appointed. ABDRC works with 19 conciliators, of the best specialists in law and with relevant experience also in the financial and banking field. Everything is settled amicably, and the understanding between the parties has the power of court judgment. More information about the work of the Centre is available by phone at 021 9414 (charged a normal rate).Download