20 September 2018

Spanish lawyers release scathing report on legal system

Barcelona bar association warns of collapse in courts due to overload resulting from European court decision on mortgage contracts.

In its 2018 Justice Report the Barcelona bar association, the Illustre Collegi de l'Advocacia de Barcelona (ICAB), has denounced the collapse of civil jurisdiction in Barcelona and other municipalities, warning that the rate of resolution of cases in Barcelona is one of the lowest in Spain

‘Floor clauses’

The ICAB has warned of the worrying increase in the volume of cases. A major cause of the overload is decision by the European Court relating to mortgages. In Spain, many individuals have initiated judicial proceedings against financial institutions seeking a declaration that the ‘floor clauses,’ covering the threshold for interest rates, inserted in mortgage loan agreements with consumers are unfair and binding on the consumers. The jurisprudence applied after the decision suggests the cases are not complex, evidenced by the fact that 98.3% of judgments handed down are favorable to the consumer. However, the entire process is delayed by the flood of lawsuits received by the courts and a lack of resources to handle the flow. Lawsuits typically lasting between two and three years, stating the Barcelona courts are the most overloaded in Spain. Regarding the problem of land clauses, the ICAB Dean Maria Eugènia Gay also stated that 'its implementation by the CGPJ and the extension of the measures that created them has clearly demonstrated that it is not capable of resolving the avalanche of claims filed against banks as a result of the individual demands of consumers regarding the general terms of contracting mortgage financing contracts.’

Reform demand

The data provided by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) indicate that in the last eight months only 6.6% of the 25,000 lawsuits filed have been resolved. The ICAB says it is committed to reforming Royal Decree Law 1/2017 on urgent measures for consumer protection in the area of land clauses in order to find a way that will actually lead to mediation to solve such conflicts. Ms Gay has proposed modifying the royal decree law for the protection of consumers in terms of land clauses to ‘implement real measures of mediation in these type of conflicts and stop them remaining solely in the hands of the banks.’