By Stelios Orphanides
The Consumer Protection Service has ruled that Hellenic Bank, Cyprus’s third largest lender, violated consumer rights with abusive clauses included in mortgage contracts.
The bank violated consumer rights with six practices which included “vague contractual terms”. These allowed the lender to unilaterally change charges, including interest rates and use a 360-day calendar to calculate the annual interest instead of 365 days – or 366 days in leap years – the service, a division of the commerce and energy ministry, said in a statement on its website.
The probe launched by its director also found that the bank charge the consumer’s accounts, at the absolute discretion of the bank, for dues owed to it, linking their accounts to obligations they have towards the bank, and offsetting/ transferring money to any account.
In addition, Hellenic imposed charges on consumers for early debt repayments which were not included in the contracts, and had the right to demand debt repayment “at any time” imposing the payment of interest, commission and other expenses on the consumer, the consumer watchdog said. The bank also reserved additional legal and customary rights without informing customers.