The First International Conference on the Financial markets and consumer protection was organized by the Financial Ombudsman’s Office in collaboration with the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to the Financial Ombudsman.
Many leading representatives from the most prominent academic centers took part in the online event. In addition to renowned Polish specialists from Jagiellonian University, Łódź University or Warsaw School of Economics, international participants from Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia and the North Macedonia also attended the meeting.
The Conference was not only an important opportunity to discuss together the current challenges to the consumer protection on the financial markets, but it was also a great chance to deliberate on the future economic crisis, as well as on the necessity of raising financial awareness and the quality of financial education in the midst of global crisis.
The forum was opened by the Polish Financial Ombudsman – Professor Mariusz Golecki – who highlighted that due to the pandemic the Conference had to be held entirely online. Despite this obstacle, however, many prominent experts were successfully gathered together to consult and exchange information, methods and views on the consumer protection and raising financial awareness, which is particularly relevant in the times that we live in.
Session I: Consumer at the Financial Market
After the Conference inauguration, the SAC Vice-President, Professor Piotr Tereszkiewicz welcomed the participants on behalf of the SAC President, Professor Grażyna Borys. The first session titled Consumer at the Financial Marker was led by its chairman, Professor Mátyás Bencze from University of Debrecen.
The first speaker was Professor Leonid Nakov from the ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. In his speech titled Managing Sustainable Financial Awareness and Inclusion of Consumers at Financial Market, he highlighted that financial awareness inevitably possesses a sustainability dimension and economic, social and environmental aspects have to be taken into account. He added that the national customer concepts of financial inclusion should be aimed at increasing the public financial trust and respect – which is crucial for entities as well as individuals at financial markets.
The use of new technologies by the insurance brokers – liability related issues
Next speakers, Professor Piotr Tereszkiewicz and Dr. Katarzyna Południak-Gierz from Jagiellonian University presented their joined paper on the use of new technologies by the insurance brokers in light of liability related issues. They pointed out that the personalization of potential clients causes a variety of issues, giving rise to concerns on different levels (including the risk of discrimination, increased information asymmetry and undue influence on the decision-making autonomy of the customer). Speakers posed an imperative question: who should bear the negative consequences related to the conclusion of an ill-suited insurance contract. In addition, they highlighted the multitude of difficulties pertaining to those issues that might emerge in the future due to new technologies.
Financial ombudsman institutions in different customer protection systems
Prof. Jernej Černič from the New University Ljubljana gave a presentation on the Role of Financial Ombudsman Institutions in Business and Human Rights, and the process of introduction of these institutions in different countries over the last decades. He spoke about advantages and disadvantages of different national models and the role of the Financial Ombudsman in the process of strengthening the business and human rights. He pointed out that the Polish Financial Institution is a remarkable example of such institution and this good practice should be translated in other national contexts.
Mortgage loans denominated in foreign currency in Europe
Professor Tereszkiewicz prof the Jagiellonian University yet again took the stand to discuss the Foreign Currency Mortgage Loans in Europe – (Preliminary) Assessment. He discussed the share of foreign currency loans in the loan portfolio in different countries. In particular, he emphasized the ever-developing situation in Austria, Slovenia and Hungary, also in the context of the EU law and the newest case-law.
The Croatian case law and legislation in the context of denominated loans was broadly reviewed by Professor Miscenic from University of Rijeka. In her paper titled Violation of the Consumer Acquis in Croatian Swiss Loans Case Law and Practice, Prof. Miscenic discussed Croatian case law, which confirms that a number of consumer credit contracts were concluded by use of unfair commercial practices and in violation of consumer aquis. It was pointed out that the legal certainty and the moral hazard is often neglected in many court cases, also at the EU level.
Milestones in the area of consumer protection – Court of Justice of the EU jurisprudence
Dr Franciszek Strzyczkowski from Łódź University continued the topic of denominated loans in his paper Selected Adjudication of the Court of Justice of the European Union as Jurisprudence Milestones in the Area of Consumer Protection Law. He presented an overview of the Court of Justice of the EU jurisprudence in the context of currency mortgage loans. Among other things, Dr. Strzyczkowski pointed out to the case C-618/10 Banco Español de Crédito v Joaquin Calderón Camino, which states that national courts are required to assess on their own motion whether a contractual term falling within the scope of Directive 93/13 is unfair, compensating in this way for the imbalance which exists between the consumer and the seller or supplier. In addition, the Dziubak case was assessed, which sets forth that the Directive must be interpreted as precluding gaps in a contract after removal of the unfair terms from being filled solely on the basis of national provisions of a general nature which provide that the effects expressed are to be supplemented by the effects arising from the principle of equity or from established customs, which are neither supplementary provisions nor applicable where the parties to the contract so agree.
Session II: Financial Market and Financial Awareness
The second session on was led by Professor Tereszkiewicz and it concerned topics regarding raising financial awareness among citizens as well as consumer protection on the financial markets.
The first speaker was Professor Grażyna Borys from Zielonogórski University (who is also the President of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Financial Ombudsman) with a presentation: Comparative analysis of national financial education strategies among Visegrad Group. Professor Borys gave a comprehensive overview of three out of four members of the Visegrad Group. As she emphasized, Slovakia introduced such national strategy as early as in 2008. In Czechia the strategy was implemented in 2010, whereas in Hungary – in 2017. The speaker emphasized that there is a pressing need to implement the financial education strategy in Poland, highlighting the importance of Financial Ombudsman institution in this process.
Professor Mariona Lemonnier from the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, presented a paper on the Consumer Protection in the French financial market and introduced the virtual audience to the particularities of the consumer protection under French law. It was additionally pointed out that the size of the foreign currency loan denominated in swiss currency is relatively small there (about 4500-5000 loans grated nationwide). Nevertheless, it still is a stimulating topic that raises a lot of controversies there. It is particularly interesting to note that foreign currency loans in France were concluded almost exclusively for apartments for rent.
The last panellist was Barbara Flaszczyńska from the University of Economics in Cracow. She presented interesting results of her research in the presentation titled Consumer protection and bank reputation risk in light of the Financial Ombudsman and the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. According to the researcher, both institutions contribute to raising reputational risk of banks in Poland. In particular, the Financial Ombudsman’s reports on complaints and disputes have shown to raise banks’ reputational risk.
Session III: Financial Education and Awareness
The last panel on Education and Financial Awareness – challenges for the contemporary financial markets was led by Professor Lemonnier and it pertained to the most prevalent issues: financial competences, especially during the pandemic.
Professor Małgorzata Serwach from Łódź Univeristy talked about the COVID-19 and liability of medical facilities and liability of insurance companies. It was stressed that the liability of medical facilities as well as insurance companies is extremely complex in light of the pandemic. The paper touched upon the latest coronavirus legislation and the new perspectives on the liability of different actors. Professor concluded that, as the pandemic is ever-changing, the legislation seems unable to keep up with these rapid alterations.
The second speaker, Dr. Ewa Cichowicz from Warsaw School of Economics presented an overview on Household approached to the use of new technologies in education. She presented results of a research that interviewed 500 people from all over Poland. The study found out that the level of innovation in financial education dependent on the frequency of using financial knowledge in everyday life. In addition, respondents with a higher level of education chose innovative educational tools more often. What is more, as Dr. Cichowicz emphasized, the level of parental financial education determined the children’s abilities in managing personal finances.
Dr. Łukasz Kurowski, who also represented Warsaw School of Economics, gave a speech on Over-indebtedness of households during the coronavirus pandemic: the role of financial competences and debt management. The researcher pointed out that the pandemic crisis revealed the pressing need for effective management of household budgets. During his presentation, he confirmed that people with higher financial skills are less likely to be over-indebted. Interestingly, the study demonstrated that respondents who have experience with consumer loans are more likely to experience problems with debt repayment than people with experience in mortgage loans. In addition, Dr. Kurowski is actively committed to improving the financial awareness himself – he has a YouTube channel where he discusses financial education (linked here).
The Conference was concluded by Professor Tomasz Bekrycht, the Director at the Education and Communications Department at the Financial Ombudsman’s Office, who was also responsible for the substantive preparation of the entire Conference. On behalf of Professor Mariusz Golecki, the Polish Financial Ombudsman, the Director expressed hope that the fruitful discussions that took place during the event, will eventually lead to strengthening the consumer protection on the financial markets in the post-pandemic crisis. Moreover, it was announced that the Conference papers will be soon published as articles.