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Currency ruling EU court backs Polish consumers over Swiss franc mortgages

People who took out mortgages in Swiss francs protest in Warsaw, Poland.

People who took out mortgages in Swiss francs protest in front of the presidential palace in Warsaw, Poland in January 2015

(Keystone / Alik Keplicz)

Polish consumers who took out mortgages in Swiss francs can ask national courts to cancel those contracts, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday. 

An estimated 700,000 Poles who have taken out mortgages in foreign currencies since 2000, mainly in Swiss francs, are now paying far bigger instalments than they expected after the Swiss franc soared against the local zloty currency following the 2000 financial crisis and again in 2015. 

Thousands of people had challenged their contracts and the clauses on how banks calculated the repayments. 

On Thursday, the ECJ ruled that unfair terms in Polish mortgage contracts could not be replaced by general provisions of Polish law. It added that, if removing these unfair clauses changed the original contracts in a way that was inadmissible under Polish law, EU law did not preclude them being annulled. 

It is thought this long-awaited ECJ decision will allow consumers to ask local courts to allow their mortgage’s conversion into the zloty. 

“The position of Polish consumers who took out Swiss franc-denominated mortgages was strengthened by the ECJ ruling,” Polish Finance Minister Jerzy Kwiecinski told reporters. 

An estimated 500,000 loans in Swiss francs, or 20% of all mortgage loans, must be repaid, amounting to over 100 billion zlotys (CHF25 billion).

Ripple effect Franc surge squeezes eastern European homeowners

The volatile Swiss franc is creating a headache for eastern European homeowners with franc denominated mortgages.


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