Consumers gain victory against banking ads

An Athens court yesterday banned the broadcasting and printing of two advertisements about bank loans for violating consumer protection legislation. Following a complaint by consumer group EKPIZO, the court accepted that television and newspaper ads of National Bank and Geniki Bank – promoting various consumer loans – were misleading because the terms and conditions were in such small print as to be illegible. The two banks were also fined 10,000 euros for non-pecuniary damage suffered by consumers, while each new airing or publication of the «Ora yia Ethniki» or «Geniki Xtra Small» ad campaign will be punishable by a fine of 3,000 and 5,000 euros respectively. EKPIZO argued, and the court agreed, that the ads resulted in a lack of awareness on the part of consumers about the terms of the loans on offer. The fact that the respective terms were not clearly set out meant consumers were essentially misled into believing that the interest rate they would have to pay was 4 or 5 percent, while in reality it was double that figure. The ruling made it clear that the banks were deliberately misleading consumers: «The defendants’ claim that in every instance the advertisement was merely to stimulate the interest of consumers must be rejected, as common experience has shown that those tempted by the low interest rate often subsequently visit the bank’s branch having already decided on applying for the loan, while a large segment of the consumer public are unaware of the specific financial terms and base their decision on the advertisement.» EKPIZO further accused supervisory authorities such as the General Secretariat for Consumers and the Bank of Greece of taking no initiatives when misleading adverts contravene the law.