Loan lid to go on July 1

The last curbs on loans will be lifted on July 1, allowing banks to lend amounts according to the ability of each customer to repay them. Today, simple consumer loans are limited to 3,000 euros and those for particular purchases to 25,000 euros. Nikos Garganas, governor of the Bank of Greece, discussed this with the board of the Hellenic Banks’ Association (HBA) yesterday. The central bank believes that conditions are ripe for this move, which is demanded by the Maastricht Treaty. A crucial factor in this deregulation will be the functioning of the Teiresias credit rating mechanism, with which banks will be able to check the records of people applying for loans. This has stumbled on the problems posed by the fact that only three banks have provided information on their clients to the system (and they are not among the five biggest banks), and that privacy laws do not allow banks to share such information without their customers’ consent. A further problem is the sheer number and type of loans (which include housing loans, consumer loans, personal loans and credit cards). The Bank of Greece has taken into consideration the results of a report on the debt levels of Greek households and the fact that the commercial banks have assured it that from now on they will inform the Teiresias system on new loans they will grant. Also, people signing new credit card contracts will be asked whether they agree to the bank sharing information on them. HBA sources say that a credible credit rating system covering all loans will be built over time, with some saying it will take at least five years, starting from the new loans. This will depend, of course, on banks keeping the promises they gave Garganas and not giving in to the desire to keep their client lists secret. Much time was lost in getting the Teiresias system going because of the objections of the Data Protection Authority (DPA), the state privacy watchdog. Banks could have started out slowly, building up lists of clients who agreed to this. Instead, they proposed a announcement in the press that would inform people with loans of the banks’ intentions to include them in Teiresias. The DPA rejected this.