Misleading advertising campaign, delays in data transfer to the Credit Information Bureau (pl. BIK) as regards credit repayment or abusive clauses in mortgage loan agreements – to name a few practices challenged by the President of UOKiK and concerning three banks. The fines imposed exceeded PLN 6.5 mln.
The President of UOKiK conducts constant monitoring of financial services market. The Office has recently issued three decisions concerning the infringement of collective consumer interests by PKO BP, Pekao SA and Raiffesien Bank Polska.
Decision in the case of PKO BP
The proceedings against the bank were instituted in January, 2012. The President of UOKiK was concerned inter alia about the advertising campaign titled Max pożyczka, mini ratka (Max loan, mini instalment), broadcast from October to December, 2010. It contained information slogan stating 25,40 miesięcznie za każdy 1000 zł pożyczki (You pay 25.40 monthly for each 1000 of the loan). However, only clients having their accounts for at least 6 months were allowed to get a credit on these terms. The President of UOKiK took the stance that conditions for granting credits contained in advertisements were not clear to an average consumer. The font was really small, and the time of spot broadcast very short – for this reason many clients could have assumed that each and every consumer could use the offer.
For misleading advertising PKO BP was imposed a fine amounting to PLN 2 844 558. The decision is not final, it may be appealed against to the court.
Decision in the case of Pekao S.A.
The proceedings were initiated following the consumer complaint filed in October, 2011. The President of UOKiK was concerned about delays in the transfer of data to the Credit Information Bureau (pl. BIK) as regards the credit repayment, i.e. the termination of liabilities. BIK is the institution which collects data on consumer financial liabilities taken at banks or cooperative savings and credit unions (pl. SKOK). After granting a credit or its repayment, these institutions are obliged to immediately provide BIK with information on debtors’ liabilities or the repayment. According to UOKiK, Pekao S.A. was transferring the data on termination of liabilities within the period 4-8 weeks. As a result, a consumer who had already paid off their debt and intended to take another loan, might not have had the sufficient credit capacity – the data on their indebtedness was still accessible in BIK’s records. What is more, the consumer did not realise the information concerning the debt repayment would be provided to BIK with such a delay.
Pekao S.A. was fined with PLN 1 833 182. The bank ceased to apply the clause in question. This decision is not final, however, and can be appealed against to the court.
Decision in the case of Raiffeisen Bank Polska
The proceedings against the bank were instituted in June, 2011 upon filing a consumer complaint. The President of UOKiK was concerned about the clauses applied in mortgage loan agreements including these which forced a consumer to incur the cost of property appraisal report whenever the debtor failed to pay two or three instalments. The President of UOKiK stated there are no grounds to charge consumers with the cost of property appraisal report in the event of delays in debt repayment. Creating the appraisal report is fully justified only in the case of change in value of the property assessed and it is in no way connected with any delays in repayment by the debtor. Such practice results in consumers bearing additional and not necessary costs.
Moreover, the Office challenged these clauses in which the bank commited a debtor to inform the institution of any circumstances that could possibly affect their financial condition, in particular income decrease which could influence due credit repayment. According to the Office such terms could have been understood very broadly, which in turn allowed for their interpretation at the discretion of the bank. As a result, the bank was free to state at any time that the consumer failed to inform it of any purchase or taken liability, even if such burdens would not actually affect this cosumer’s financial capacity to pay back the debt.
The fine imposed on Raiffeisen Bank Polska amounted to PLN 1 826 677. The bank ceased to apply the challenged clauses. The decision is not final – it can be appealed against to the court.
Whenever problems occur as regards credit repayment, we should turn to the bank at first. If a credit grantor dismisses consumer complaints, applies clauses contrary to law, we should go for help to the poviat and municipal consumer ombudsmen. Additionally, the assistance can be obtained via the infoline at 0 800 007 707. You can also seek free of charge expert advice by sending questions at , handled by the Association of Polish Consumers, and in local branches of the Polish Consumer Federation. As regards resolving disputes with banks when the claim does not exceed PLN 8 thousand, consumers may turn to the Banking Ombudsman.