Spanish lender Bankia on Monday announced it plans to refund charges to all of its mortgage holders affected by so-called “floor clauses” (cláusulas suelo), which saw a lower limit imposed on monthly mortgage repayments no matter how much the interest rate on the loan fell, and which have been found to be abusive according to a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Some 1.4 million bank customers in Spain are thought to be affected.
Announcing it would roll out a refund process, Bankia said delaying such payments until the conclusion of judicial and extrajudicial proceedings would only drag out the procedures and make it more expensive.
The bank said it has put aside €200 million to cover the cost of the refunds and will set up a streamlined process allowing affected clients to apply for refunds as of Friday February 3.
The bank said it has put aside €200 million to cover the cost of the refunds and will set up a streamlined process
In a statement, the lender said customers would only have to visit a branch of the bank to start the refund process. Clients will have the option of having the money paid into their account immediately or seeing the sum wiped from their mortgage obligations, Bankia said.
In mid-January, in the wake of the ECJ ruling on the matter, the Spanish government and the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) agreed on a mechanism for the refunding of charges owned to customers. Among the measures included in the legislation is the requirement for banks to inform all clients who have floor clauses in their mortgage terms that a claims process has been opened, one that will be considered voluntary.
As well as returning the overcharged money due to the floor clause, the banks will also have to pay out interest on the capital. The mechanism will have to be in place a month after it is approved by the government. Once the bank has received the claim from the client, it will have three months to present an offer. If an agreement is not reached in this time, the mediation process will be understood to have concluded, and the client can seek legal recourse.
Bankia was born out of the merger of seven of the country’s biggest savings banks in 2010 but was taken over by the Bank of Spain at the end of May 2012 after posting a record €3.3-billion loss.
The lender chalked up profits of €804 million in 2016, 22.7% lower than a year earlier.
English version by George Mills.