Consumers made peace with banks in 9 of 10 negotiations. Benefits of close to EUR 2 million in 2021
- Feb 10, 2022
- In Press releases
2021 was the most efficient of the six years of operation for the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre (ABDRC). 9 of 10 negotiations between consumers and banks concluded with an agreement of the parties and acceptance of the solutions proposed by the ABDRC conciliators. Also, the rate of applications rejected by banks saw an all-time low: 17% across the entire banking system. In fact, more than eight of ten applications featuring negotiable claims (lending cost reduction for instance), found solutions via the Centre. Moreover, 2021 saw the highest benefits obtained from negotiations: EUR 1.94 million, i.e. 45% more than in the previous year. The total amount of these benefits came close to EUR 6 million for all years 2016-2021.
2022 started with a new record for the applications accepted by banks for further negotiation: in week 17-21 January 2022, ABDRC registered closed to 30 casefiles (applications accepted for negotiation), that is three times more than in an average week.
More applications and agreements in 2021
2021 sees a new record in terms of applications received by ABDRC (of the 2,525 applications, 1,551 concerned banks, and 974 concerned NBFIs). Affected by the sanitary crisis, years 2020-2021 still aggregated more than 5,000 applications to negotiate with banks and NBFIs, and overall its six years of operation, ABDRC received more than 9,100 applications.
2021 saw also the highest percentage of negotiations concluded with the parties reaching an agreement, of total conciliations: 89%. In only 55 negotiations, one or both parties rejected the solutions proposed by conciliators. 2019, the year before the onset of the sanitary crises, while seeing the highest number of applications accepted for negotiation, reported a 22% of failed negotiations.
Unfortunately, not all applications could be subjected to negotiation. For instance, the requests concerning deregistration from the Credit Office may not be subject to negotiation, despite their growing number: In 2021, ABDRC received 350 applications for deregistration from the Credit Office concerning banks (23% of the total number of applications concerning banks), and 823 applications concerning NBFIs (85% of the total). We continue to recommend consumers to approach banks/NBFIs directly for deregistration from the Credit Register.
Fewer applications rejected by banks, higher benefits
Compared to 2020, the share of small-value (claims below EUR 1,000) cases reduced in 2021, and the share of high-value benefits increased. Thus, 45% of negotiations concluded with benefits ranging between EUR 1,001 and 5,000, and 11% of negotiations afforded benefits higher than EUR 10,000.
The amount of the benefits obtained from the negotiations between consumers and banks/NBFIs in 2021 was close to EUR 2 million, the highest of all six years of ABDRC operation. Given the increasing share of negotiations concluded with an agreement of the parties and the total amount of the befits, the average benefits were 70% higher than in 2019: EUR 4,300 v EUR 2,530.
The applications unreasonably rejected by banks have dropped to an all-time law since the establishment of ABDRC: 17%; still some banks have done even better, taking this share below 10% or even below 5%. In early 2021, ABDRC recommended both the banks and the NBFIs to keep the share of unreasonably rejected applications below 20% of the total applications received. Additionally, banks were also recommended to revisit both the applications they had closed, and the forced execution or court cases.
NBFIs lag behind. While consumers filed almost a double number of applications to NFFIs in 2021 compared to 2020, only 6 of them were accepted for negotiation. The good thing is that other 120 applications were settled directly between the parties (without going through conciliation), i.e. two times than in 2020. Over the last three years, ABDRC provided assistance in only 10 negotiations involving NBFIs and concluded with an agreement of the parties. During the same period, the parties settled their disputed matters directly in more than 200 cases.
“The 2021 results show beyond any doubt that when consumers file valid applications and support them with documents, banks do not remain indifferent to their calls for support. In our view, the stake for 2022 is to make banks act proactively. While banks have replied to consumers’ requests for negotiation so far, we would still like to see banks initiating a dialogue with those consumers that are dissatisfied or experience instalment payment difficulties, in order to address these disagreements through conciliation. For instances, where court proceedings are in progress, particularly in the phase on substance, or where there are strong indications that instalment payment is going to be delayed by more than 90 days (after which forced execution proceedings are started), banks can make the first step and invite consumers to conciliation. This could be something that even the courts would support. For instances, judges could recommend the parties to first attempt amicable settlement via ABDRC, as we have seen happening in the European, but also the Romanian, practice. This could be a welcomed relief of costly court proceedings for both the courts, and the both parties involved. Moreover, court proceedings could take years and, in the end, the judgment will benefit only one of the parties, and not both of them, as in case of negotiation. We make NBFIs the same recommendation also for 2022: to accept more negotiation applications, or to address as many grievances as possible directly with consumers.
Last, but not least, we recommend consumers to keep their applications short and sharp and accompany them by supporting documents. Then, consumers needs to double check their contact data supplied to ABDRC because we have encountered situations where the bank agreed to enter negotiations, but we could not get hold of the consumer anymore using their email address or phone number supplied to the Centre.
As I have repeatedly stressed out before, consumers who want to file for deregistration from the Credit Office should approach their bank or NBFIs directly because such request may not be subject to negotiation. We also find that many of the deregistration applications are filed by companies that make promises to help consumers on this matter (for a consideration). These companies file standard applications for consumers, and use email addresses and contact data that, many times, prove inaccurate”, says Alexandru Păunescu, member of ABDRC Steering Board.
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. Once 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).