ECJ safeguards consumer rights: New ruling on the prescription of abusive clauses

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The recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on January 25, 2024, in the combined cases C-810/21 to C-813/21, marks a significant victory for consumer rights. The court has determined that the limitation period for the restitution of payments made under abusive clauses starts only when the consumer becomes aware of such abuse.

The European Court of Justice, in its landmark judgment on January 25, 2024, in the combined cases C-810/21 to C-813/21, has spoken out decisively in favor of consumers.

The court ruled that the statute of limitations for seeking restitution for amounts paid under an abusive clause does not begin until the consumer becomes aware of the clause’s abusive nature. This ruling is a significant boon for those consumers who have not yet claimed restitution of expenses incurred in the formalization of mortgage contracts.

This pivotal decision stems from a request for a preliminary ruling by the Provincial Court of Barcelona. The court asked the ECJ to clarify the issue of prescription when a consumer seeks to enforce the restorative effects of the annulment of a clause imposing mortgage formalization costs on the borrower.

The European Court of Justice stands firmly with consumers. It asserts that the start of the limitation period for a consumer to seek restitution of payments wrongfully made under an abusive contractual clause begins when the consumer becomes aware of the clause’s abusive nature, not when the last payment under the contract is settled.

Furthermore, the Court emphasizes that such awareness cannot be presumed to exist from the moment when a related jurisprudence is established, even if it is already consolidated. It notes:

“(…) it cannot be presumed that the consumer, less knowledgeable than the professional, is aware of national jurisprudence regarding consumer rights, no matter how well-established that jurisprudence may be.”

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