NEWS

Market traps for the unwary

We live in an age of siren calls to take out loans, which threaten to hold hundreds of thousands of Greeks in ignominious bondage. This is the picture painted by consumer organizations, which monitor the proliferation of loans and credit cards in an ever-growing number of families with evident anxiety. «Is it possible for slimming centers and gyms to hand out credit cards? Who informs people about their real obligations? The gym instructor?» queried KEPKA’s president, Tsemberlidis. «For us, the spread of loans and cards and especially the way in which it’s taking place is a major challenge. At this moment, there are 12,000 companies that issue Alpha Bank credit cards and another 6,000 affiliated with National Bank. «Tens of thousands of Greeks are introduced into the credit card system through a gym. What guarantees are there in that?» he asked. There are many people who take recourse to KEPKA who want to exercise their right of withdrawal from the credit card scheme. But since the understanding between the bank and the cooperating company lags behind, the client ends up shouldering interest payments. At the same time, interest rates remain very high. «Overall interest on an open loan of 3,000 euros can reach 20 percent,» said Tsemberlidis. «Banks advertise loans for the holiday seasons with interest rates of 9 percent, but they don’t include the administrative costs or the total actual interest for the year. Nor do they make clear which interest rate the client will pay if he or she delays payment on one or two installments.» Goulielmou of EKPOIZO also expressed reservations about festive loans. «Advertisements talk about a 0 percent deposit and a 6 percent interest rate for the first two months. What they don’t say is that after that, interest rates range from 10 to 12 percent.» People are also not warned nor taught about the dangers lurking in the use of credit cards, which is a recent development in this country. For example, shouldn’t credit card accounts state that people are charged exorbitant interest rates when they pay the minimum installment (usually 15 euros)?