Financial and
ESG report 2020

Lawsuits

Below please find the data on the court cases pending, brought up by and against entities of the Group. A separate category are the proceedings related to the activities of the Tax Control Authority described in Chapter 15. note 15) "Corporate Income Tax".

Value of the court litigations, as at 31.12.2020, in which the companies of the Group were a plaintiff, totalled PLN 359.3 million.

Proceedings on infringement of collective consumer interests

On January 3 2018, the Bank received decision of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKIK), in which the President of UOKIK found infringement by the Bank of the rights of consumers. In the opinion of the President of UOKiK the essence of the violation is that the Bank informed consumers (it regards 78 agreements) in responses to their complaints, that the court verdict stating the abusiveness of the provisions of the loan agreement regarding exchange rates does not apply to them. According to the position of the President of UOKiK the abusiveness of contract’s clauses determined by the court  in the course of abstract control is constitutive and effective for every contract from the beginning. As a result of the decision, the Bank was obliged to:

1) send information on the UOKiK’s decision to the said 78 clients,

2) place the information on  decision and the decision itself on the website and on Twitter,

3) to pay a fine amounting to PLN 20.7 mln.

The Bank lodged an appeal within the statutory time limit.

On January 7, 2020, the first instance court dismissed the Bank’s appeal in its entirety. The bank appealed against the judgment within the statutory deadline. The court presented the view that the judgment issued in the course of the control of a contractual template (in the course of an abstract control), recognizing the provisions of the template as abusive, determines the abusiveness of similar provisions in previously concluded contracts. Therefore, the information provided to consumers was incorrect and misleading. As regards the penalty imposed by UOKiK, the court pointed out that the policy of imposing penalties by the Office had changed in the direction of tightening penalties and that the court agrees with this direction.

In the Bank’s assessment, the Court should not assess the Bank’s behaviour in 2015 from the perspective of today’s case-law views on the importance of abstract control (it was not until January 2016 that the Supreme Court’s resolution supporting the view of the President of UOKiK was published), the more penalties for these behaviours should not be imposed using current policy. The above constitutes a significant argument against the validity of the judgment and supports the appeal which the Bank submitted to the Court of second instance.

According to current estimates of the risk of losing the dispute, the Bank has not created a provision.

Proceedings on competition-restricting practice

The Bank (along with other banks) is also a party to the dispute with UOKiK, in which the President of UOKiK recognized the practice of participating banks, including Bank Millennium, in an agreement aimed at jointly setting interchange fee rates charged on transactions made with Visa and Mastercard cards as restrictive of competition, and by decision of 29 December 2006 imposed a fine on the Bank in the amount of PLN 12.2 million. The Bank, along with other banks, appealed the decision.

In connection with the judgment of the Supreme Court and the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Warsaw of November 23, 2020, the case is currently pending before the court of first instance – the Court of Competition and Consumer Protection. The Bank has created a provision in the amount equal to the imposed penalty.

Proceedings in the matter of recognition of provisions of the agreement format as abusive

On 22 September 2020 The Bank received decision of the Chairman of the Office for Protection of Competition and Consumers (OPCC Chairman) recognising clauses stipulating principles of currency exchange applied in the so-called anti-spread annex as abusive and prohibited the use thereof.

Penalty was imposed upon the Bank in the amount of 10.5 million PLN. Penalty amount takes account of two mitigating circumstances: cooperation with the Office for Protection of Competition and Consumers and discontinuation of the use of provisions in question.

The Bank was also requested, after the decision becomes final and binding, to inform consumers, by registered mail, to the effect that the said clauses were deemed to be abusive and therefore not binding upon them (without need to obtain court’s decision confirming this circumstance) and publish the decision in the case on the Bank’s web site.

In the decision justification delivered in writing the OPCC Chairman stated that FX rates determined by the Bank were determined at Bank’s discretion (on the basis of a concept, not specified in any regulations, of average inter-bank market rate). Moreover, client had no precise knowledge on where to look for said rates since provision referred to Reuters, without precisely defining the relevant site.

Provisions relating to FX rates in Bank’s tables were challenged since the Bank failed to define when and how many times a day these tables were prepared and published.

In justification of the decision, the OPCC Chairman also indicated that in the course of the proceeding, Bank Millennium presented various proposed solutions, which the OPCC Chairman deemed to be insufficient.

The decision is not final and binding. The Bank appealed against the said decision within statutory term.  The Bank believes that chances for it to win the case are positive.

As at 31.12.2020, the most important proceedings, in the group of the court cases where the Group’s companies were defendant, were following:

  • The Bank is a defendant in three court proceedings in which the subject of the dispute is the amount of the interchange fee. In two of the abovementioned cases, the Bank was sued jointly and severally with another bank, and in one with another bank and card organizations. The total value of claims submitted in these cases is PLN 729,580,027. The proceedings with the highest value of the submitted claim are brought by PKN Orlen SA, in which the plaintiff demands payment of PLN 635,681,381. The plaintiff in this proceeding alleges that the banks acted under an agreement restricting competition on the acquiring services market by jointly setting the level of the national interchange fee in the years 2006-2014. In the other two cases, the charges are similar to those raised in the case brought by PKN Orlen SA, while the period of the alleged agreement is indicated for the years 2008-2014. According to current estimates of the risk of losing a dispute in these matters, the Bank did not create a provision. In addition, we point out that the Bank participates as a side intervener in three other proceedings regarding the interchange fee. Other banks are the defendant. Plaintiffs in these cases also accuse banks of acting as part of an agreement restricting competition on the acquiring services market by jointly setting the level of the national interchange fee in the years 2008-2014.
  • A lawsuit brought up by Europejska Fundacja Współpracy Polsko-Belgijskiej/European Foundation for Polish-Belgian Cooperation (EFWP-B) against Bank Millennium S.A., worth of the dispute 521.9 million PLN with statutory interest from 05.04.2016 until the day of payment. The plaintiff filed the suit dated 23.10.2015 to the Regional Court in Warsaw; the suit  was served to the Bank on 04.04.2016. According to the plaintiff, the basis for the claim is damage to their assets, due to the actions taken by the Bank and consisting in the wrong interpretation of the Agreement for working capital loan concluded between the Bank and PCZ S.A., which resulted in placing the loan on demand. In the case brought by EFWP-B, the plaintiff moved for securing the claim in the amount of 250.0 million PLN. The petition was dismissed on 5.09.2016 with legal validity by the Appellate Court. The Bank is requesting complete dismissal of the suit, stating disagreement with the charges raised in the claim. Supporting the position of the Bank, the Bank’s attorney submitted a binding copy of final verdict of Appeal Court in Wrocław favourable to the Bank, issued in the same legal state in the action brought by PCZ SA against the Bank. At present, the Court of first instance is conducting evidence proceedings.
  • Additionally, on 19 January 2018 the Bank has received the lawsuit petition of First Data Polska SA requesting the payment of 186.8 mln PLN. First Data claims a share in an amount which the Bank has received in connection with the Visa Europe takeover transaction by Visa Inc. The plaintiff based its request on an agreement with the Bank on co-operation in scope of acceptance and settlement of operations conducted with the usage of Visa cards. The Bank does not accept the claim and filed the response to the lawsuit petition within the deadline set forth in the law. In accordance with the judgment of 13/06/2019, the Bank won the case before the Court of first instance. The case is currently pending before the Court of second instance. According to current estimates of the risk of losing the dispute, the Bank has not created a specific provision.

As at 31.12.2020, the total value of the subjects of the other litigations in which the Group appeared as defendant, stood at PLN 817.7 million (excluding the class actions described below and in the Chapter 14.). In this group the most important category are cases related with FX loans mortgage portfolio and cases related to forward transactions (option cases).

On the 3rd of December 2015 a class action was served on the Bank. A group of the Bank’s debtors (454 borrowers party to 275 loan agreements) is represented by the Municipal Consumer Ombudsman in Olsztyn. The plaintiffs demanded payment of the amount of PLN 3.5 million, claiming that the clauses of the agreements, pertaining to the low down payment insurance, are unfair and thus not binding. Plaintiff extended the group in the court letter filed on the 4th of April 2018, therefore the claims increased from PLN 3.5 million to over PLN 5 million.

Actual status:

On the 1st of October 2018, the group’s representative corrected the total amount of claims pursued in the proceedings and submitted a revised list of all group members, covering the total of 697 borrowers – 432 loan agreements. The value of the subject of the dispute, as updated by the claimant, is PLN 7,371,107.94.

By the resolution of 1 April 2020 the court established the composition of the group as per request of the plaintiff. Bank submitted an appeal against the resolution on 14 July 2020. The appeal has not yet been decided.

As at 31 December 2020, there were also 386 individual court cases regarding LTV insurance (cases in which only a claim for the reimbursement of the commission or LTV insurance fee is presented).

On 13 August 2020 the Bank received  lawsuit from the Financial Ombudsman. The Financial Ombudsman, in the lawsuit, demands that the Bank and the Insurer (TU Europa) be ordered to discontinue performing unfair market practices involving, as follows:

  • presenting the offered loan repayment insurance as protecting interests of the insured in case when insurance structure indicates that it protects the Bank’s interests;
  • use of clauses linking the value of insurance benefit with the amount of borrower’s debt;
  • use of clauses determining the amount of insurance premium without prior risk assessment (underwriting);
  • use of clauses excluding insurer’s liability for insurance accidents resulting from earlier causes.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman requires the Bank to be ordered to publish, on its web site, information on use of unfair market practices.

The lawsuit does not include any demand for payment, by the Bank, of any specified amounts. Nonetheless, if the practice is deemed to be abusive it may constitute grounds for future claims to be filed by individual clients.

The case is being examined by the court of first instance.

FX mortgage loans legal risk is described in the Chapter 14. “Costs of provisions for legal risk related to foreign currency mortgage loans”.

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