“Poisoned offers” to settle, backed by the government.
Spain’s biggest banks, it seems, will never learn — not even when the highest court of the land, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), rules against their dodgy practices.
The ECJ ruled just before Christmas that Spain’s major banks would have to refund all the billions of euros they had surreptitiously overcharged borrowers as a result of the so-called “mortgage floor-clauses” that were unleashed across the whole home mortgage sector in 2009 [A Nightmare Before Christmas for Spanish Banks].
These floor clauses set a minimum interest rate, typically of between 3% and 4.5%, for variable-rate mortgages, which are a very common mortgage in Spain, even if the Euribor dropped far below that figure. In other words, the mortgages were only really variable in one direction: upwards! While this is not illegal, most banks failed to properly inform their customers that the mortgage contract included such a clause.
The ECJ’s ruling was an emphatic victory for the almost 1.4 million borrowers who had been fleeced out of thousands of euros, many of whom have spent years trying to recoup the funds through Spain’s creaking legal system. Yet even now, the banks, many of which are struggling against a backdrop of negative interest rates and tightening margins, seem loath to part with the cash.
The president of Spain’s sixth biggest bank, Josep Oliu, today called the ruling against the bank’s floor clauses an “attack against the banks,” likening claimants to “roguish swindlers.” His bank, Sabadell, has been accused ofpressuring its mortgage customers to sign a “pact of silence,” by which the customers, knowingly or not, pledge never to speak publicly about the conditions of their mortgage — not even to their lawyers — and in return the bank removes the floor clause from the mortgage, without reimbursing a single cent of what it owes.
Even today, with the law firmly on the borrowers’ side, “poisoned offers” continue to proliferate, warns consumer association Facua-Consumidores en Acción…
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