Haku

FINE-000241

Tulosta

Asianumero: FINE-000241 (2017)

Asiaryhmä: Muut asiat

Ratkaisu annettu: 19.01.2017

Is the Bank entitled to raise the rent on the safe-deposit box? Safe-deposit box. Change in service price list. Reasonableness.

Account of the case

The Customer has rented a safe-deposit box from the Bank for over 15 years. The rent of the safe-deposit box had remained unvaried until the Bank increased it on 1 January 2011 and 1 January 2016. In 2011–2015, the charge for the Customer's safe-deposit box rent had been 40–80 euro annually, depending on the variation in his customer status. In 2016, the rent was 20 euro per month, amounting to 240 euro per year.

Customer’s complaint

In his complaint, the Customer finds that the increase in the safe-deposit box rent is unreasonable. The Customer refers to the Council Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts according to which consumer contracts must not contain unreasonable terms. The service provider’s right to change the contract unilaterally can be deemed to constitute unfair terms in this sense. The Bank has not provided sufficient reasons to show that its expenses would have increased so much that the higher price would be justified.

The Customer requests that the Bank reinstate the rent to the level preceding the increase.

Bank’s reply

In its reply, the Bank states that according to the terms and conditions applicable to the safe-deposit box, it is entitled to change the price charged for the service. The Bank had communicated the change in the terms to the Customer.

The Bank had justified the 2011 price increase through the higher rental expenses of the bank offices whereby also the costs incurred for storage space had gone up. The price was revised again in 2016, and at the same time, the Bank started to quote monthly prices instead of an annual fee.

The Bank finds that it has acted in line with the contractual terms, the Consumer Protection Act and the Council Directive.

Further clarifications acquired

In addition to the briefs of the parties in this complaint case, the Complaint

Board has been provided with the following document:

- General Terms and Conditions applicable to safe-deposit boxes.

Recommended solution

Formulation of question

In order to solve the dispute between the Bank and the Customer, the Banking Complaints Board must judge whether the contractual term related to the rent of the safe-deposit box is unreasonable or whether it has led to an unreasonable situation.

Sections of applicable law and terms of Agreement

Chapter 4 Section 1 of the Consumer Protection Act reads as follows: “If a term in a contract referred to in the Act is unreasonable from the point of view of the consumer or if an unreasonable result would ensue from its application, the term may be adjusted or it may be disregarded. Also, a commitment as to consideration shall be deemed a contract term. In the assessment of unreasonableness, due note shall be taken of the contract as a whole, of the positions of the parties, of the circumstances under which the contract was concluded and, of the changes in circumstances, as well as of other relevant points.”

Under Article 3(1) of the Council Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, a contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

Evaluation of the case

According to the Customer, the change in the contractual term regarding the change in the safe-deposit box rent is unreasonable. The Customer finds that the term regarding the unilateral change of the contract is unfair, and the Bank has not presented sufficient reasons for the increase. The Bank finds that it has acted lawfully when increasing the rent.

The Council Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts has been brought into force in the Finnish Consumer Protection Act. In assessing the fairness of the contractual term in the context of the Consumer Protection Act, due attention must be paid to the fact that this is a non-fixed term contract that can be terminated by either Party at their discretion. Upon the price increase, the Customer had the possibility to discontinue the renting of the safe-deposit box without extra expenses and to change the service provider. Moreover, attention must be paid to the fact that the Bank has no statutory obligation to offer safe-deposit box services and, as a premise, it can freely price the services. In addition, the change in the price list had been communicated to the Customer in advance as per the terms.

A further assessment must be made as to whether the application of the term has led to an unfair or unreasonable situation. On 1 January 2016, the rent of the safe-deposit box went from 40 euro to 240 euro per year. Had the Customer retained his former customer status, the rent would have been 120 euro annually. The Customer had a chance to evaluate whether he would accept the price increase or whether he would, instead, change his service provider or stop using any safe-deposit box services. After having received the notice, the Customer had time to weigh his options.

Considering the above, the Banking Complaints Board finds that the contractual term regarding the change in the safe-deposit box rent is not unreasonable or has not led to an unreasonable result.

Final outcome

The Banking Complaints Board finds that the Bank had the right to increase the rent of the safe-deposit box.

The Banking Complaints Board does not recommend that the rent be reinstated to the level preceding the increase.

The Banking Complaints Board’s decision was unanimous.

 

BANKING COMPLAINTS BOARD

 

Chairman Sillanpää

Secretary Heino

 

Members:

Atrila

Kallio

Lehtonen

Pulkkinen

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