Bulgaria’s Parliament approved at second reading on December 11 a bill of amendments to the Civil Procedure Code that are meant to strengthen consumer protections in contract disputes.
The most significant change is that courts will now be required to review contractual terms and conditions to ascertain whether these contained prejudicial clauses towards consumers when asked to issue repossession orders.
This will affect contracts with banks and other lenders, telecom operators, utilities and other service providers that use standard contracts with their customers.
Currently, courts are required to issue repossession orders by default, but going forward they could reject such requests if they find unfair contractual terms.
Additionally, consumers are given a longer period of time to appeal against a repossession order.
The bill addresses an issue raised by the European Commission in January 2019, when it issued a letter of formal notice, the first stage in the EU infringement proceedings, calling on Bulgaria to review its rules on how traders can enforce claims against consumers and make them compatible with EU law on unfair terms in consumer contracts.
“EU rules guarantee that such unfair terms do not bind consumers and they have effective remedies under reasonable conditions against them. Under the case law of the Court of Justice, this implies that national courts are obliged to assess the unfairness of contract terms ex officio, i.e. even if the consumer does not raise this point,” the Commission said at the time.
“To date in Bulgaria, however, payment orders and orders for immediate enforcement are issued without any substantive checks by the courts. Consumers can only challenge them under very strict conditions. In particular, certain creditors, such as banks, can obtain orders for immediate enforcement quasi automatically, with very limited possibilities for the consumers to prevent or challenge the enforcement based on unfair contract terms.”
(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)