Spanish constitutional court grants protection to UK residents over abusive contractual clauses

Hand client signing contract paper a real estate or mortgage contract

In a groundbreaking decision, the Spanish Constitutional Court (TCo) delivered justice to a citizen who was previously burdened with legal costs following a trial that deemed specific contract terms as abusive. This significant ruling, issued on 11-9-23 and published in BOE on 12-10-23, carries substantial implications for UK residents dealing with Spanish legal matters and financial institutions.

Case Background

The case revolved around a bank’s enforcement action regarding a mortgage initiated due to the borrower’s failure to meet several loan installment payments. The initial court ruling recognized specific clauses in the loan agreement as abusive. However, it needed to clearly specify the allocation of costs, citing the evolving and unclear state of relevant case law.

The defendant appealed solely against the cost-sharing decision, arguing that the bank should bear the entire cost burden. Unfortunately, the appellate court rejected this appeal, citing the absence of a specific provision addressing cost allocation in mortgage enforcement cases involving abusive clauses.

Constitutional Appeal

Frustrated with the outcome, the appellant turned to the TCo, asserting that her right to effective judicial protection had been violated.

In its verdict, the TCo referenced European Court of Justice (TJUE) case law, highlighting the obligation of member states to provide effective means to prevent the use of abusive clauses. The Spanish Supreme Court (TS) had previously ruled against invoking the exception to the objective defeat principle in cost allocation, especially when the consumer’s claim regarding abusive clauses is upheld.

The TCo strongly criticized the challenged decision, labeling it “manifestly unreasonable.” Despite recognizing the abusive nature of the two clauses in the loan agreement, the court still applied the exception of “serious legal doubts” regarding cost allocation.

Implications and Key Takeaways

This ruling highlights the importance of safeguarding consumer rights, particularly in mortgage agreements with abusive clauses. By establishing this precedent, the TCO sends a clear message to financial institutions, cautioning them against including unfair contract terms. Furthermore, the ruling encourages consumers to voice their concerns about such clauses without fearing legal costs.

For UK residents dealing with the complexities of financial contracts in Spain, this case serves as a reminder of the evolving landscape of consumer rights influenced by both Spanish and European case law.

At Costaluz Lawyers, we diligently monitor these pivotal decisions to provide our clients with the most up-to-date guidance. If you have further inquiries or require assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact our legal experts.

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