It’s almost the end of the saga. After eleven years of proceedings, the Court of Cassation has just ruled in favor of BNP Paribas customers who had concluded a Helvet Immo contract, these loans denominated in Swiss francs and repayable in euros.
This Wednesday, the highest French court affirmed that BNP Paribas Personal Finance, the bank’s subsidiary, should have provided “borrowers with sufficient and accurate information allowing them to understand the concrete functioning of the financial mechanism in question and thus to assess the risk of potentially significant negative economic consequences of such clauses on their financial obligations throughout the duration of the contract, in the event of a significant depreciation of the currency in which they received their income compared to the currency of account. .
Moreover, contrary to what the bank claimed, the actions of the customers are not time-barred. “From now on, with these decisions of the Court of Cassation, the clauses will have to be qualified as abusive”, rejoices Charles Constantin-Vallet, lawyer for the victims. It is now up to the customers to seize the civil judges to obtain the cancellation of their contract.
In this case, the aggrieved borrower will only have to repay the loaned capital, without interest. Therefore, it is “at least 250 million euros that BNP Paribas will have to pay, perhaps much more if all the injured customers decide to take their cases to court”, says Charles Constantin-Vallet.
For its part, BNP Paribas Personal Finance limited itself to a terse statement: “We take note of the decisions, declared a spokesperson. It will be up to the referring courts to apply it in the various cases before them”.
From 2008 to 2009, 4,655 loans were granted representing around 800 million euros lent. Borrowers, who had not anticipated the exchange risk, saw the rating soar from 2011, when the euro weakened sharply against the Swiss franc. Many have to repay more capital than the amount borrowed.
Misleading business practice
Last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union had already ruled in the same case that “to the extent that the professional has not complied with the requirement of transparency with regard to the consumer, these clauses seem to weigh on this consumer a disproportionate risk in relation to the services and the amount of the loan received, since their application has the consequence that the latter must bear the cost of the evolution of forward exchange rates”.
This new victory for the borrowers comes on top of a February 2020 decision before the French correctional judge, who condemned BNP Paribas Personal Finance for “misleading commercial practice” and concealment of this criminal offence, and ordered the provisional execution of the decision with the payment of damages. 127 million euros have already been paid by the bank’s subsidiary, which appealed.