Helvet Immo: victory for BNP Paribas customers before European justice

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Helvet Immo: victory for BNP Paribas customers before European justice

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The Helvet Immo nightmare continues for BNP Paribas, but is about to end for customers who have taken out these loans denominated in Swiss francs and repayable in euros. On Thursday, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled in favor of borrowers in this ten-year-old case.

As a direct consequence, the French civil courts who, until now, had not followed the borrowers will have to re-examine the cases not yet decided under the eye of this new jurisprudence. Most contracts signed with this term considered unfair could be canceled.

“It’s a huge win for consumers,” said Charles Constantin-Vallet, a victim’s attorney. According to him, they are “a minimum of 250 million euros that the bank will have to pay” to injured borrowers.

This victory for the borrowers comes on top of a February 2020 decision before the French correctional judge who convicted BNP Paribas Personal Finance for “deceptive business practice” and concealment of that crime, and ordered the provisional enforcement of the decision with payment of damage. 127 million euros have already been paid by the bank’s subsidiary, which has filed an appeal.

“We have taken note of the decisions taken by the CUJE which, as recalled in its press release, does not resolve the national dispute, reacted a spokesperson for BNP Paribas Personal Finance. It is for the national courts to assess the impact of these decisions on the Helvet Immo dispute. “

Unfair terms

Charles Constantin-Vallet appealed to the Paris unfair terms judge on behalf of CLCV, the consumer association. The decision is expected by the end of the year and if this judge follows European jurisprudence, “BNP Paribas may have to cancel the contract designated with all these customers who have signed it, whether or not they have acted before the courts”, argues the lawyer.

“The unfair terms that appear in a consumer contract do not bind the consumer and must be considered as non-existent, so that they cannot have any effect on his legal and factual situation”, the CJEU recalled unambiguously in its judgment. .

The note flares up

From 2008 to 2009, 4,655 loans were granted for approximately € 800 million. Borrowers, who had not anticipated the currency risk, have seen their ratings rise since 2011, when the euro weakened strongly against the Swiss franc. Many still owe more capital than the amount borrowed even if they have been paying for ten years.

According to the CJEU, “although the existence of this risk was not expressly mentioned in the loan contracts, it nevertheless indirectly followed that this risk was inherent therein and weighed on the consumer”.

Transparency requirement

However, “to the extent that the trader has not complied with the obligation of transparency towards the consumer, these clauses seem to represent a disproportionate risk for this consumer in relation to the services and the amount of the loan received, since their application has the the consequence that the latter has to bear the cost of changes in forward exchange rates “, concluded the Court.

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