Opinions nº C-621/17 of Tribunal de Justicia, May 15, 2019

Resolution Date:May 15, 2019
Issuing Organization:Tribunal de Justicia
Decision Number:C-621/17
SUMMARY

Procedimiento prejudicial - Espacio de libertad, seguridad y justicia - Política de asilo - Directiva 2011/95/UE - Denegación o revocación del estatuto de refugiado - Condena por un delito de especial gravedad - Artículo 14, apartados 4 a 6 - Interpretación y validez - Artículo 18 de la Carta de los Derechos Fundamentales de la Unión Europea - Artículo 78 TFUE, apartado 1 - Convención sobre el... (see full summary)

 
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(Reference for a preliminary ruling - Consumer protection - Unfair terms - Council Directive 93/13/EEC - Article 4(2) - Requirement for terms related to the definition of the main subject‐matter of the contract to be drafted in plain and intelligible language - Article 5 - Requirement for contract to be drafted in plain and intelligible language)

  1. The reference for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Articles 3(1), 4(2) and 5 of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (OJ 1993 L 95, p. 29) (‘the 1993 Directive’). With this reference the Court is once again obliged to consider the operation of the 1993 Directive in the context of loan agreements supplied by credit institutions.

  2. This particular request was made in the context of a dispute between Mr Gyula Kiss, Mr Emil Kiss, Ms Gyuláné Kiss and CIB Bank Zrt. (‘the Bank’) concerning a request to establish the alleged unfairness of certain terms contained in a foreign currency loan agreement. It is against this background that the referring court asks in particular if the requirements laid down in Articles 4(2) and 5 of the 1993 Directive for certain terms to be drafted in plain and intelligible language should be interpreted as meaning that each price clause needs to mention the specific services provided in return. Before considering these issues it is, however, first necessary to set out the relevant legal provisions.

    1. Legal context

    1. EU law

  3. The 1993 Directive

  4. The 12th, 13th, 16th, 19th and 20th recitals of the 1993 Directive stipulate:

    ‘Whereas, however, as they now stand, national laws allow only partial harmonisation to be envisaged; whereas, in particular, only contractual terms which have not been individually negotiated are covered by this Directive; whereas Member States should have the option, with due regard for the Treaty, to afford consumers a higher level of protection through national provisions that are more stringent than those of this Directive;

    Whereas the statutory or regulatory provisions of the Member States which directly or indirectly determine the terms of consumer contracts are presumed not to contain unfair terms; whereas, therefore, it does not appear to be necessary to subject the terms which reflect mandatory statutory or regulatory provisions and the principles or provisions of international conventions to which the Member States or the Community are party; whereas in that respect the wording ‘mandatory statutory or regulatory provisions’ in Article 1 (2) also covers rules which, according to the law, shall apply between the contracting parties provided that no other arrangements have been established;

    Whereas the assessment, according to the general criteria chosen, of the unfair character of terms, in particular in sale or supply activities of a public nature providing collective services which take account of solidarity among users, must be supplemented by a means of making an overall evaluation of the different interests involved; whereas this constitutes the requirement of good faith; whereas, in making an assessment of good faith, particular regard shall be had to the strength of the bargaining positions of the parties, whether the consumer had an inducement to agree to the term and whether the goods or services were sold or supplied to the special order of the consumer; whereas the requirement of good faith may be satisfied by the seller or supplier where he deals fairly and equitably with the other party whose legitimate interests he has to take into account;

    Whereas, for the purposes of this Directive, assessment of unfair character shall not be made of terms which describe the main subject matter of the contract nor the quality/price ratio of the goods or services supplied; whereas the main subject matter of the contract and the price/quality ratio may nevertheless be taken into account in assessing the fairness of other terms; whereas it follows, inter alia, that in insurance contracts, the terms which clearly define or circumscribe the insured risk and the insurer’s liability shall not be subject to such assessment since these restrictions are taken into account in calculating the premium paid by the consumer;

    Whereas contracts should be drafted in plain, intelligible language, the consumer should actually be given an opportunity to examine all the terms and, if in doubt, the interpretation most favourable to the consumer should prevail’.

  5. Article 3(1) and (2) of the 1993 Directive states:

    ‘1. A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

  6. A term shall always be regarded as not individually negotiated where it has been drafted in advance and the consumer has therefore not been able to influence the substance of the term, particularly in the context of a pre-formulated standard contract.

    The fact that certain aspects of a term or one specific term have been individually negotiated shall not exclude the application of this Article to the rest of a contract if an overall assessment of the contract indicates that it is nevertheless a pre-formulated standard contract.

    Where any seller or supplier claims that a standard term has been individually negotiated, the burden of proof in this respect shall be incumbent on him.’

  7. Article 4(2) of the 1993 Directive reads as follows:

    ‘Assessment of the unfair nature of the terms shall relate neither to the definition of the main subject matter of the contract nor to the adequacy of the price and remuneration, on the one hand, as against the services or goods supplie[d] in exchange, on the other, in so far as these terms are in plain intelligible language.’

  8. Article 5 of the 1993 Directive provides:

    ‘In the case of contracts where all or certain terms offered to the consumer are in writing, these terms must always be drafted in plain, intelligible language. Where there is doubt about the meaning of a term, the interpretation most favourable to the consumer shall prevail. This rule on interpretation shall not apply in the context of the procedures laid down in Article 7 (2).’

  9. In the words of Article 8 of the 1993 Directive:

    ‘Member States may adopt or retain the most stringent provisions compatible with the Treaty in the area covered by this Directive, to ensure a maximum degree of protection for the consumer.’

  10. Directive 2003/55

  11. Article 3(3) of Directive 2003/55/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2003 concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas and repealing Directive 98/30/EC (OJ 2003 L 176, p. 57) reads as follows:

    ‘… Member States … shall ensure high levels of consumer protection, particularly with respect to transparency regarding general contractual terms and conditions, general information and dispute settlement mechanisms.’

  12. Directive 2005/29

  13. Article 6(1)(d) of Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 May 2005 concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market and amending Council Directive 84/450/EEC, Directives 97/7/EC, 98/27/EC and 2002/65/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council and Regulation (EC) No 2006/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council (‘Unfair Commercial Practices Directive’) (OJ 2005 L 149, p. 22), mentions:

    ‘1. A commercial practice shall be regarded as misleading if it contains false information and is therefore untruthful or in any way, including overall presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the average consumer, even if the information is factually correct, in relation to one or more of the following elements, and in either case causes or is likely to cause him to take a transactional decision that he would not have taken otherwise:

    (d) the price or the manner in which the price is calculated, or the existence of a specific price advantage;

    …’

  14. Directive 2014/17

  15. Recitals 4 and 30 of Directive 2014/17/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 February 2014 on credit agreements for consumers relating to residential immovable property and amending Directives 2008/48/EC and 2013/36/EU and Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 (OJ 2014 L 60, p. 34) provides:

    ‘(4) A series of problems have been identified in mortgage markets within the Union relating to irresponsible lending and borrowing and the potential scope for irresponsible behaviour by market participants including credit intermediaries and non-credit institutions. Some problems concerned credits denominated in a foreign currency which consumers had taken out in that currency in order to take advantage of the borrowing rate offered but without having adequate information about or understanding of the exchange rate risk involved. Those problems are driven by market and regulatory failures as well as other factors such as the general economic climate and low levels of financial literacy. Other problems include ineffective, inconsistent, or non-existent regimes for credit intermediaries and non-credit institutions providing credit for residential immovable property. The problems identified have potentially significant macroeconomic spill-over effects, can lead to consumer detriment, act as economic or legal barriers to cross-border activity and create an unlevel playing field between actors.

    (30) Due to the significant risks attached to borrowing in a foreign currency, it is necessary to provide for measures to ensure that consumers are aware of the risk they are taking on and that the consumer has the possibility to limit their exposure to exchange rate risk during the lifetime of the credit. The risk could be limited either through giving the consumer the right to convert the currency of the credit, or through other arrangements such as...

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