Decisions of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection on penalties for PKO BP and PEKAO


In two decisions dated October 16, 2020, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection found the provisions contained in annexes to loan agreements of another two banks, i.e. PKO BP and PEKAO, illegal. As a consequence, the authority imposed financial penalties in the amount of: PLN 40.74 million for PKO BP and PLN 21.88 million for PEKAO, and also prohibited the application of the challenged clauses.

  • In these two decisions, I concluded that both PKO BP and PEKAO have implemented  provisions that grossly infringe the collective interests of consumers. As a result, both banks have the ability to unilaterally set the exchange rates and thus the amount of consumer debt. It is unacceptable for banks to grant themselves so much freedom in setting the exchange rate – says Tomasz Chróstny, President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection.

The President of UOKiK found the provisions concerning the method of determining the amount of exchange rates applied by the indicated banks as legally not allowed, imprecise and arbitrarily determined. For instance, PKO BP stipulates that the rate is calculated based on the “average interbank rate”, “liquidity of the currency exchange market”, “exchange rate competitiveness”. PEKAO, on the other hand, refers to “market rates”. However, the regulations, as well as contractual provisions or other objective and available sources, do not specify any of the above concepts. To find out about the interbank rate, PKO BP refers to Reuters. PEKAO explained in the course of the proceedings that it also takes its odds from this website. However, none of these banks specifies exactly which website it is referring to.

Doubts were also raised by the clause giving PKO BP the right to change the data source if the Reuters’ exchange rates are no longer available – however, the bank does not provide its customers any change procedure. Moreover, PKO BP grants itself the right to unilaterally change the amount of the spread if it is done by “at least 2 of the 10 largest banks in terms of total assets by at least 0.5 percent.”

Both PKO BP and PEKAO use exchange tables that they have prepared themselves. However, there is no indication when the tables are compiled and published. As a result, the borrower cannot estimate the rate at which the bank will convert the installment. Therefore it is possible that banks will impose the most favorable rates on consumers. Thus, they are able to freely determine the amount of consumer debt.

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