BANCA TRANSILVANIA'S FAIRY BRINGS GOOD NEWS TO CHF BORROWERSBT eliminates the risk commission from all of Volksbank's loan contracts

EMILIA OLESCU (Translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
Ziarul BURSA #English Section / 8 aprilie 2015

BT eliminates the risk commission from all of Volksbank's loan contracts

Conversion with a substantial reduction of the loan amount

Dunca, ANPC: "It means that it's possible, and the other banks are just lying to their customers"

Piperea: "Possible customer migration from the other banks to Banca Transilvania"

While we've become accustomed to the fairy of Banca Transilvania presenting us "Plan B...as in BT", yesterday, the bank announced "plan A", after the completion of the acquisition of Volksbank România, specifically the program to convert the loans denominated in Swiss francs granted by the Austrian bank.

Surprisingly, the project of Banca Transilvania (BT) drew positive reactions from all sides - consumers, the Central Bank, lawyers.

In short, Volksbank's debtors will benefit from a conversion to lei or Euros, at the day exchange rate, with a 22.5% discount to the amount of the loan, plus the "risk fee that the customers effectively paid throughout the duration of the loan".

The risk commission will be eliminated from the loan agreements concluded by consumers with the bank.

Furthermore, BT will stop calculating the risk/administration fee included for the customers that are currently in the portfolio of Volksbank România and who signed the loan agreements with this bank in lei, as well as in Euros or dollars.

"The reimbursement will be done by reducing the balance of the loan, which will apply at a future date, after the completion of the conversion program for the VBRO customers who have loans denominated in Swiss Francs", as shown by the press release of Banca Transilvania.

The fact that BT is eliminating the two commissions, is a sign that he bank thinks that they are abusive and that it is cheaper and faster to eliminate them from the start rather than spend time and money - tens of millions of Euros on lawyers -, waiting for the situation to be resolved in the courts, lawyer Gheorghe Piperea says.

He says that broadly, BT's offer is a good one and puts the behavior of the other banks that are in the same situation to shame.

Gheorghe Piperea said: "Under these circumstance, the lawsuits filed by the ANPC for abusive clauses may be admitted and the clauses in question may be eliminated.

BT's plan shows that the efforts made by Volksbank, as well as by the other banks that issued loans denominated in CHF - the freezing of the exchange rate, the cut of the interest rate. - have been useless, to say nothing of the hate that has reached unimaginable levels and the customers' distrust towards the banks in question that have accrued in these months.

My lawsuits on claims of abusive clauses have had a 100% win rate so far, in various stages, with up to 20,000 Euros being refunded to the customers. At an estimate, it would appear that the 3,000 consumers involved in these lawsuits got back 6,000-6,500 Euros each".

In turn, consumers praise the conversion plan that BT announced yesterday.

Alin Iacob, the president of the Association of Romanian Financial Services Users (AURSF), told us: "We think that the step taken by BT shows responsibility and respect for consumers and we hope the other banks will have a similar attitude in their relationship with their own customers. It seems that BT wants to get the customers from the courts to the counter".

The president of the AURSF added that the group created for the purpose of negotiations with banks, which he leads, maintains its desire to discuss with the representatives of BT, in order to detail the offer of the bank and to clarify all the aspects involved in the offer and to evaluate the particular cases that may not be covered by Banca Transilvania's plan.

Besides, recently, the representatives of Volksbank answered the consumers' invitation to participate in the negotiations, after the acquisition by BT was completed.

Marius Dunca, the president of the National Consumer Protection Authority (ANPC), thinks that the plan of BT demonstrates "seriousness and respect for customers": "If it is as it is being said, it means that it can be done, and the other banks are just lying to their customers. It is a serious offer, which will set an example for the courts to rule in favor of the ANPC on claims of abusive clauses".

The approximately 18,300 customers of Volksbank România will be able to benefit from the situations of BT starting on May 4th, 2015, according to the quoted press release, who says that the actual amount of the total discount will vary, depending on the balance of the loan, on potential overdue installments or the particular cases where the risk/management fee has already been recouped from Volksbank România.

BT also announce that the decision to freeze the CHF exchange rate at the exchange rate of December 31st 2014 will be extended by a month, until May 17th this year.

"There are many interesting elements in the BT plan for the customers borrowing in CHF, which leave the other stubborn banks in the dust", says Gheorghe Piperea, who emphasizes that it will be hard for the other banks to do nothing.

He said: "There will be a massive migration from the other banks to Banca Transilvania. In spite of all this, some questions still remain compared to the program that was announced".

Among these are also included those concerning the situation of customers with non-performing loans, as well as the differences on the discounts that will be applied and which could create discrimination among clients.

"If BT's plan works, there are high chances of things working well with the other banks as well", the lawyer concluded.

BT has announced that it would prioritize welfare cases and customers who, despite the raise in the CHF rate over the last few years, have continued to make their payments.

The bank's officials emphasize that they have made it their plan to build a positive relationship and in the long term with all the customers of Volksbank România, the offer intended for those who have loans denominated in Swiss Francs being one first step in that regard.

Last year, when information about Volksbank's program to convert loans denominated in CHF, Nicolae Cinteză, the head of the Oversight Division of the NBR, was saying, in an interview: "If this decision gets passed, I think it will be the most clever decision made this year (ed. note: 2014) by the banking system. If this decision gets implemented, it will probably push other banks in the same direction, under the pressure of Volksbank's decision". Nicolae Cinteză added, however, that it will all depend on the shareholders' willingness to bring in more money to remedy the situation.

Last year, Volksbank România conducted a share capital increase, to successfully achieve this program to convert the CHF loans.

Volksbank is one of the banks that have granted the most loans denominated in Swiss francs, between 2007 and 2008. In the first half of 2014 the bank sold the stake of non-performing loans, of more than half a billion Euros.

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