Early repayment of a consumer mortgage loan and reduction of costs that do not depend on the duration of the credit agreement

With the judgement case no. C-555/21 the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) answered a preliminary question addressed to it by the Austrian Supreme Court regarding the interpretation of Directive 2014/17 on credit agreements for consumers relating to residential immovable property.

The Austrian Supreme Court addressed the request for the preliminary ruling in relation to ongoing court proceedings in which the local association for the protection of the interests of consumers (Ger. Verein für Konsumenteninformation) challenged the general condition used by UniCredit Bank Austria in its credit agreements secured by mortgages. With the disputed general term, the bank, in the case of early repayment of a credit agreement, proportionally reduces only the interest and costs of the credit which are linked to the duration of the credit and does not take into account the proportional reduction for those costs that do not depend on the duration of the agreement (e.g. credit processing costs).

With respect to the addressed question whether Directive 2014/17 precludes the national legislation, which grants a consumer with a right to reduce the total cost of credit in the event of early repayment, namely reduction of interests and costs which depend on the duration of the agreement, the CJEU answered that the directive does not preclude such legislation. In case of early repayment, the consumer can therefore only request a reduction of interest and costs which depend on the duration of the agreement.

The CJEU emphasized that the purpose of the right to reduce the total costs of the credit is to adjust the credit agreement according to the circumstances of an early repayment. This right, therefore, does not include the right to reduce the costs (i) that the consumer bears regardless of the duration of the agreement and (ii) of services that have already been completed at the time of the early repayment. Furthermore, the CJEU also emphasized that national courts must ensure that the costs borne by the consumer in the event of early repayment do not objectively represent a remuneration of the creditor for temporary use of the capital or payment for services which have not yet been performed.

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