Consumer rights protection

Another area where the state has failed to fulfill its role, supervisory in this case, is in protecting consumers. For example, although the Supreme Court has ruled that the innumerable terms and conditions in contracts entered with firms such as banks and insurance companies are illegal, these organizations persist in their malpractice. This is because the responsible supervisory body, the General Secretariat for Commerce (now subsumed by the General Secretariat for the Consumer), has not imposed fines or other penalties. Major decisions, the product of a collective struggle waged by the consumer organisation EKPOIZO, have been made on the general terms contained in credit card contracts deemed to be illegal or abusive (Supreme Court ruling 1219/2001), on the one-sided readjustments of insurance premiums (Supreme Court ruling 1030/2001) and the arbitrary penalties on the consumer for early payment of housing loans (Supreme Court ruling 430/2005). Another major problem that the Ministry of Finance has avoided resolving for years is the issue of compound interest. Although this has repeatedly been judged as being illegal in the Greek courts as it is contrary to the Constitution and European banking law, it continues to exist. Sefis Anastasakos, a Supreme Court and Council of State lawyer who is president of the Borrowers’ Association, recalls at least four laws on compound interest being passed, but no one has yet solved the problem. In fact, the latest law has actually aggravated the problem in comparison with the law passed in 2001. The amount due to banks by the borrowers is much higher than what the banks had been requesting until August 2004 (ruling 2789/2001). In response to a recent letter by the Borrowers’ Association to the finance minister regarding the ambiguities and severe problems in the law, the Finance Ministry washed its hands of the affair. «As the law is untenable we have been able to win a restraint order for a borrower whose house they had tried to take,» said Anastasakos. «We are continuing to win court cases as this law is in breach of the constitution.»