The Council of Ministers has approved this Tuesday the draft law to create the Independent Administrative Authority for the Defense of the Financial Client, free for users and whose resolutions will be binding for the financial institution when the amounts claimed are less than 20,000 euros. The First Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, explained at a press conference that it will go out to a public hearing this Wednesday for five weeks, and then go through the Council of Ministers again. In principle, the process will be completed in the second half of the year.
This authority, which will be in charge of resolving the complaints of customers who have not been satisfied with the response given by the customer services of their financial institutions, will have a free complaints system for customers, both in person and electronically. The body will be financed through financial entities, which will have to pay a fee set at 250 euros for each admitted claim. The process will be relatively simple and you will not need a lawyer or attorney. Thus, the Executive intends to encourage the financial entities themselves to resolve the conflicts of citizens “in an agile manner”.
The body must resolve the claims of natural or legal persons for possible breaches of rules of conduct, good practices and financial uses, as well as for abusiveness of clauses declared as such by the corresponding courts in relation to financial contracts, in a maximum period of 90 days. “This is a very important change with respect to the current situation, in which the claims services of these financial supervisors were not binding on the entities”, the minister highlighted. The bill also contemplates sanctions for entities that fail to comply with binding resolutions.
The Independent Administrative Authority for the Defense of Financial Customers will unify the claims services that exist from the Bank of Spain, the National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) and the General Directorate of Insurance and Pension Funds (DGSFP). It will have a president and a vice president who will be appointed by the Council of Ministers for a non-renewable period of six years. It will be divided into sections, which will be the competent collegiate bodies to resolve claims, and the members will be given “a high degree of independence”. The Bank of Spain alone received 21,320 claims in 2020, of which it agreed with the customer in 1,473 cases.
José María Roldán, in his last act as president of the Spanish Banking Association (AEB), defended this Tuesday in Madrid that the existing authorities should be used instead of creating a new one, although he clarified that they are still waiting to know the text approved by the Government. In addition, regarding the rate of 250 euros that is imposed on financial entities, he considers that the cost should be paid by the beneficiary of the public service and not by the banks.
This bill affects financial institutions, both credit institutions and investment service companies, insurance companies, financial credit establishments, crowdfunding platforms, lenders and credit intermediaries, payment and electronic money institutions or issuers and service providers of the so-called sector fintech and cryptoactive services. In other words, it will also protect investors in crypto assets, including virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
The Government’s objective is for this authority to put an end to the barrage of unanswered complaints that financial clients redirect each year to entities and supervisors. Cases that, ultimately, end up in court, congesting them even more. And even in European instances, where issues such as floor clauses have been resolved, something that Calviño recalled at a press conference.
“Today we take an important step to strengthen the protection of citizens in the financial field. This is a very important issue for the citizens of our country, especially for the most vulnerable groups and, therefore, it is a priority issue that this Government wants to respond to”, the vice president stressed.
The creation of this authority for the protection of financial clients was a pending task for the Government. The idea was raised in 2018, then by the Executive of the Popular Party. With the motion of censure and the arrival of Pedro Sánchez, the intention to carry it out in 2019 was maintained. However, these plans were delayed by the call for general elections and, later, by the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic.
Consumer organisations, for their part, had been demanding for some time that the creation of the authority be speeded up in order to avoid possible abuses by the financial sector. The measure is added to those already taken by the banking employers AEB, CECA and Unacc, which signed a protocol of 10 measures to help older and vulnerable customers to overcome the obstacles of the digitization of the sector. The draft law on customer service is also underway: entities must have a customer service service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
According to Vice President Calviño, this figure complements the institutional system for resolving claims in the financial field, which is currently divided into three levels: first, the customer service of the financial entities themselves; in a second stage, the claims services of the supervisory bodies; and, finally, the judicial bodies. “This is intended to promote the extrajudicial resolution of conflicts and avoid excessive judicialization in the financial field that have taken place in recent years, assuming savings in economic, time and reputational costs of all the agents involved”, affirms the Ministry of Economy in his note.