Negotiations between Consumers and Banks in Times of Pandemic: from Tens of Thousands RON to Tens of Thousands EUR

Since the beginning of the year and to date, as many as 300 negotiations concluded with reconciliation of the parties, of which 294 with banks and 6 with NBFIs. Value wise, the range of the benefits obtained is very wide: from benefits below RON 100 (in cases where consumers reported matters of principle in their relations to banks), to the bank writing-off the entire debt. We have witnesses also a value record for a loan in EUR: a bank wrote-off a debt of EUR 60,000.  Because this summer we saw bank encouraging their consumers to turn to ABDRC, we wanted to find out for ourselves what the consumers involved in some of the cases resolved thought. Learn about them in the enclosed release, as well as how the strategies pursued by banks are seen by the Centre’s conciliators.

25 November, Bucharest. The negotiations carried out in the Alternative Banking Dispute Resolution Centre (ABDRC) over the last months have surfaced e a variety of solutions obtained, a consistent approach adopted by the Centre’s conciliators, as well as different appetite for conciliation on the part of commercial banks. Since the beginning of the year and to date, as many as 300 negotiations concluded with reconciliation of the parties, of which 294 with banks and 6 with NBFIs. In other 90 negotiations, consumers and banks/NBFIs could not reach an agreement, and more than 100 negotiations are currently in progress.

 

Record amount for a loan in EUR

Since the beginning of the year, consumers filed more than 2,300 applications for negotiation with banks and NBFIs, compared to 2,117 in the entire previous year. Most of them (1,775 applications) concern banks, and only 531 NBFIs. 92% of the applications were submitted using the web tool available at www.csalb.ro or by email at office@csalb.ro. The remaining 8% of these applications were either mailed or brought by consumers directly to the Centre’s offices.

  • I., Bucharest: Further to a proposal made by our conciliator Valentin Cocean, the bank decided to write-off this consumer’s entire debt under a loan in EUR with a long history of restructuring that haven’t proven an effective aid in the long run. The EUR 60,000 were written-off for a social case where the borrower claimed also difficult medical conditions that left him the only payer to the bank. Moreover, the monthly instalment of RON 2,500 was just a couple of hundreds RON below his monthly income. The previous record amount observed in a negotiation on a loan agreement in EUR via ABDRC had been EUR 44,600.

 

  • Adrian, Bucharest: “My accounts were garnished, and the bank withdrew all the money I had in my account on the spot, while they had a day to enforce the bailiff’s decision and it was only normal to advise me, too. I approached the bank several times trying to tell them that they left me with no money in my account, but they kept telling me about legal obligations, and gave me no other explanations. I turn to ABDRC for help, and besides the RON 91 returned by the bank (n.n. the fees charged for garnishment payment and account management, the most important gain was the talks I had with the conciliator Valentin Cocean. I felt listened to, I was not provided a standard reply, I was explained the law and why the bank acted in that way, and he gave additional examples so I can understand my cases better. While the amount per se is not important, I am not absurd, and I understand that the bank made these concessions first and foremost because I was their client.”
  • Sorin, Iași: “I noticed that the bank charged me fees of more than RON 280 during the last year. I was aware of some of these, but when I asked them about the different, they kept claiming different provisions that were contradicted by my statements of account. After I turned to ABDRC, they returned the RON 65 account management fee, and will charge me no withdrawal fee for one year. My idea was that this was better than nothing. I must admit, I had hopes close to zero that something would be resolved. I emailed ABDRC my statements of account for the last year, they forwarded to the bank, and it was all set.”

 

  • Mihăiță, Târgu Frumos: “The fact that the bank wrote-off by debt of more than RON 58,000 was the best piece of news I could ever hope to receive. My wife passed away last year, and I was left with this loan which I had to pay an instalment of RON 1,860 per month for. It was a 5-year loan, of which I only managed to pay two years. I learned about ABDRC from a friend who had seen stories of other cases online and on TV. At first, I was rather sceptical. Then, I thought that it would not cost me anything to try. I felt that conciliator Alina Radu was as happy as me when she called to let me know about the outcome. If I could, I would cross the entire country tomorrow to thank her in person.”

 

How does a RON 65 benefit resemble one worth EUR 60,000

“Because this summer we saw the banks encouraging their consumers to turn to ABDRC, we wanted to find out for ourselves what the consumers involved in some of the cases resolved thought. As we can see, value wise, the range of the benefits obtained is very wide. In this regard, we want to remind consumers that there are neither two similar cases, nor two identical solutions in ABDRC. These differences show us that what matters the most is that the solution given satisfies the parties and addresses the deadlock occurred in performance of the contract, no matter if there are small or large amounts in question, or it’s just a matter of principle.

We are happy to see that consumers’ satisfaction does not rest only in the benefits obtained from negotiations or their amount, but also in the professionalism showed by our conciliations and the interest that banks pay to their clients during these negotiations. Credit institutions need to understand that there is no difference whatsoever between a case where a consumer obtains RON 65 and one where the bank writes-off a debt of EUR 60,000 because both stem from a grievance of a consumer. Both cases demand for the same attention, and fortunately, this is precisely what our conciliators manage to do. They put the same amount of effort regardless of the envisaged benefits, and their approach is a guarantee that the solutions rendered are 100% impartial for both consumers and banks.

ABDRC appears even more useful in cases involving small amounts. There are disputes for which consumers would not normally go to court as the legal costs could easily overrun the benefits, the proceedings could last too long and eat up too much energy against the envisaged outcome. Additionally, if we were to make a comparison with the court proceedings, both involvement of ABDRC, as well as performance of the conciliation per se are very straightforward and do no demand for legal or technical knowledge, which is an important advantage compared to the proceedings before a judge”, says Alexandru Păunescu, President of ABDRC Steering Board.

 

How do consumers perceive the strategies of banks

Valentin Cocean, ABDRC Conciliator: “I have noticed that increasingly more banks come up with radical solutions to write-off the debts and are more open to social and serious medical cases. This is one of the changes for the good that I can notice. On the other hand, the banks that have always had a shy appetite for conciliations, followed the same battered path of not accepting any claims, or accepting them with no willingness whatsoever to make concessions. This applies to the bank that unproductively insists on non-workable solutions, such as writing-down 30% of the principal, but only conditional upon the client paying 70% of this principal in only 3-months’ time.

I can also see a better long-term strategy embraced by certain banks to accept to enter negotiations that do not concern a property-related problem, but addressing a grievance. To my mind, such actions, like the one involving the RON 91 benefit, while they are first and foremost a matter of good image for that bank, also work as trust-builders between banks and consumers.”

 

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