Our work in the financial sector has been multidimensional, and we would even dare say, pioneering, for the Greek standards. The effort of EKPIZO in this sector is what has distinguished and highlighted its prestige not only in Greece, but in Europe as well. The Legal Protection Office has been operating since 1996, and it was initially funded by the European Commission. It has now managed to develop both collective and individual actions. More specifically:
- EKPIZO collectively supports consumers by filing Collective Claims for abusive terms in bank contracts, insurance agreements, contracts provided by telecommunications’ providers, as well as in contracts offered by various companies with the intent to mislead the consumers. The rulings in favor of the consumers have contributed in the amelioration of the case law and legislation, and has accomplished to place the general consumer in a better position.
- Moreover, EKPIZO informs, advises and mediates to address consumer problems against daily illegal, unfair and abusive business practices, as well as for out-of-court settlements relating to financial liabilities of indebted consumers.
- Since 2009, over 80% of our actions have been focused on helping indebted consumers resolve their problems. This occurred because debt settlements are the most common and current consumer issue in Greek society.
Our work in the financial sector is illustrated through our following actions:
Informing and advising consumers
We inform and advise consumers of their personal rights regarding financial transactions, via/through:
- Personal meetings in our offices
- Distribution of printed material
- Announcements & Press releases
- Our Media coverage
- Speeches, meetings, conferences
Out-of-court Settlement Body
EKPIZO is one of the bodies that assist in the out-of-court settlement efforts intending to regulate debts owed to banks:
- as is stipulated by Law 3869/2010 on the debt regulation for over-indebted individuals and
- under the Banking Code of Conduct, where we are included as one of the bodies that provide advisory assistance.
In particular, we have sent 41,781 applications for out-of-court conciliation on the regulation of debts owed to banks and for 13,428 of our members, since September 2010 and up until July 2015.
Despite our personalized and realistic proposals, only a small percentage of the aforementioned applications have been successful and that is due to bank institutions being unwilling to provide for viable solutions to consumers.
Out-of-court mediation for our members
One of the foremost objectives of EKPIZO is the dispute resolution of issues that consumers face during bank transactions, without them having to resort to court procedures. As a result, we have sent numerous correspondences, and in many occasions our members were satisfied by the return of illegally made payments.
EKPIZO is the sole Greek Consumer Association that has been filing collective actions, since 1996. To be more specific, we have filed 6 collective actions in the financial sector against bank institutions, of great importance and historical significance (for the consumers’ protection) regarding abusive terms in bank agreements.
Throughout the past years, we have filed numerous class actions against banks, requesting for the return of sums illegally held by credit institutions, resulting from:
- Expenses for mortgages & repair loans
- Prepayment penalty to mortgages with a floating interest rate
Most of our class actions have been accepted by Greek Courts, whereas other class actions concluded in out-of-court conciliation.
As a result, more than €2 million has been returned to our members – debtors.
Furthermore, we mobilize consumers with actions pertaining to:
In 2013, we mobilized and organized the community to stand for the quote, “NO to real estate auctions”.
Through several press releases, correspondences and meetings with political parties, we manage to apply constant pressure to respective bodies in order to extend the protection of real estate, as long as the financial crisis ensues, based on fair sociopolitical criteria.
The highlight of our efforts was a resolution signed by 140,470 citizens, in December 2013, and later delivered to Parliament.
- 56,500 brochures were distributed in municipalities in the Attica region and in 17 peripheral cities
- Speeches were given at 5 municipalities in the Attica region, 8 Citizen Associations and other bodies
- There were 2 presentations made to the Athens Bar Association and to the City of Athens Cultural Centre
- There were 27 people that volunteered in the brochure distribution and the collection of signatures
- We were supported by 18 domestic and 30 foreign Consumer Associations
- Moreover, our actions were reinforced by 10 professional associations, 9 local government agencies, 5 community associations and 3 scientific associations
In 2015 (October-November), being under the threat of the release of the main residence auctions due to the contraction of Katselis Law, we regroup and organize a series of actions, such as:
Re-activation of electronic signature collection in the resolution of AVAAZ, requesting the non-amendment of Katselis Law, so that the auctions will not be released
Boycott of Banking products
In 2008, due to abusive practices of a major bank institution, we mobilized consumers to cut off all transactional relations with the named bank.
As of 2012, we have collaborated with volunteer social workers and psychologists in order to provide to our members free of charge support, to aid them in resolving their daily issues.
Research: “Social Dimension in Indebtedness”
Throughout the period of March- June 2011, we managed to cooperate with a team of volunteering sociologists, in order to research the subject of social dimension in indebtedness.
Free Legal Assistance
While collaborating with NEO-INKA, we implemented a programme regarding free legal assistance for indebted consumers, as part of the application of Law 3869/2010 that focuses on vulnerable social groups. This programme managed to help 89 people. The programme’s funding was realized thanks to the Operational Programme of Attica and the European Regional Development Fund.
Legal Protection office in the Municipality of Aghios Dimitrios
Working together with the Municipality of Aghios Dimitrios, we accomplished to form an office providing information, protection and advisory support to the residents affected by the crisis that face the grave issue of over-indebtedness, and are threatened by the loss of their residence and/or employment.
Our principal aim is the accurate and responsible provision of information to citizens regarding the issue of over-indebtedness. Therefore, we continue giving informational speeches and discussing with social groups and labour unions and associations that face the issue of regulating their debts with the bank. Up until today, we have managed to give informational speeches in 37 Municipalities, institutions and associations.
Meetings- Conferences- Events
Since 2004, we have organized 8 meetings regarding consumer protection in financial transactions, 3 seminars and 1 international conference.
Participation in legislative committees
We regularly participate in legislative committees and intervene with the intention to improve the legislation. We also partake in national consultations and Community bills regarding the consumer protection in financial transactions.