The Court of Appeal in Warsaw confirmed the need for pro-consumer interpretation of the law in cases against banks

The Court of Appeal in Warsaw confirmed the need for pro-consumer interpretation of the law in cases against banks

In a dispute initiated in 2019 on behalf of Clients – consumers, purchasers of investment certificates of closed-end private assets funds – against the bank which was selling the certificates in question, the Court of Appeal in Warsaw shared the position presented by the Law Firm, quashing the order of the Regional Court in Warsaw to return the claim. 

The Regional Court in Warsaw disagreed with the argumentation put forward in the statement of claim that the bank’s offering of investment certificates to consumers constitutes a banking transaction within the meaning of Article 5 section 2 of the Banking Law Act, which would justify the application of the court fee for the statement of claim in the preferential amount resulting from Article 13 section 1a of the Act on Court Costs in Civil Cases (hereinafter: “ACCCC“). According to this provision (in the version in force on the day of filing the statement of claim in the case; at present, this issue is regulated by Article 13a of the ACCCC), the proportional fee in cases of claims resulting from banking transactions referred to in Article 5 section 1 and 2 of the Banking Law Act, charged to a consumer or a natural person running a family business is 5% of the value of the claim or the appeal, but not less than PLN 30 and not more than PLN 1,000. In the opinion of the Clients, the transactions performed by the respondent bank should have been considered as commissioned transactions connected with the issue of securities, which were indicated in Article 5 section 2 clause 9 of the Banking Law Act. Therefore, they were included in the catalogue referred to in Article 13 section 1a of the ACCCC. 

The Regional Court in Warsaw ordered the return of the statement of claim. Justifying its decision, it pointed out that the bank’s transaction consisting in intermediation in the sale of investment certificates issued by investment funds does not fall into the category that could be classified as a “banking transaction”, creating the obligation to pay a court fee on the statement of claim at a preferential rate. 

The Clients did not agree with the above decision. Their counsel, attorney-at-law Przemysław Przerywacz, appealed against the above order to the Court of Appeal in Warsaw, moving for it to be quashed. Justifying his position, he pointed out that there is no definition of a banking transaction in Polish law, and the Banking Law contains only a catalogue of such transactions. On the other hand, legal transactions of an obligatory nature, in which a bank is involved at least on one side and which are performed in connection with its business, should be considered as such. Clients have demonstrated that the sale of investment certificates to them is a banking transaction referred to in Article 5 section 2 clause 9 of the Banking Law, citing, among others, the fact that an offer to purchase the certificates was made to them by the bank’s employees, in its branches, and that all documents were presented and signed by the bank’s employees in its branches. 

Finally, the Court of Appeal in Warsaw shared the position presented by the Clients, quashing the contested order by its decision of 12 February 2020. It emphasised, among others, that: In a dispute between a consumer and a bank, there is a serious disproportion as to the economic situation of the parties and it is the consumer who usually finds himself in an unfavourable position. The need to pay a high court fee is a serious factor that discourages many consumers from pursuing their claims. Therefore, the interpretation of banking law should be pro-consumer at all times. In the circumstances of this case, it should have been concluded that the actions of the defendant bank, which constituted the source of the claimants’ claims in the action, were banking transactions.

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