UOKiK imposed PLN 5.7 mln penalty for abusive clauses used by credit broker
Europejska Grupa Finansowa Council is a credit broker operating under the brand Personal Finanse. The Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) performed an analysis of the standard contract terms in order to check for the presence of abusive clauses. The proceedings against the company began in December 2016. The President of the Office considered 13 different contract terms to be abusive.
“The clauses applied by EGF Council in its contracts are ambiguous and imprecise. They are also contrary to acceptable practices. For instance, a customer reading through the contract would not have known how much the company itself would charge for its services due to the fact that the amount of remuneration was not specified. This was a deliberate move, designed to ensure that the company could make a substantial profit” , says Marek Niechciał, President of UOKiK.
The Office found a number of prohibited terms in the company’s contracts. These terms provided that:
- the consumer would be under an obligation to pay remuneration to EGF Council for brokering the loan. However, the consumer would not be informed of the amount of such remuneration.
- In its contracts, EGF Council would also place the consumer under an obligation to grant recommendations to the company, representing that the company was trustworthy and reliable. The company’s consumers were also under an obligation to declare that they have adopted the decision on taking out the loan on their own, without any pressure being exerted by company employees. Such declarations could make it difficult to enforce claims in the future.
- The consumers would also be compelled to declare that the terms and conditions of the contract were agreed upon in the course of negotiations, even though they were, in fact, unilaterally proposed by EGF Council. The intention behind these arrangements was that these terms and conditions would not be considered abusive due to the fact that they had allegedly been agreed upon through negotiations.
A financial penalty in the amount of over PLN 5.7 million was imposed upon EGF Council for the use of abusive contract terms. The decision is not final and the undertaking has decided to appeal to a court of law.
This is not the first time that the Office has adopted a decision concerning this particular financial intermediary. In 2017, the UOKiK considered that EGF Council violated the collective interests of consumers, imposing a penalty in the amount of PLN 6.3 million. Furthermore, the UOKiK have also been filing reports concerning the activities of this company with law enforcement agencies for several years. The proceedings concerning the activities of EGF Council are being conducted by the Regional Prosecution Service in Wrocław. The proprietors of the business were detained at the request of the Prosecution Service; some of them were arrested.