A lawyer concluding an agreement with a bank is a consumer

The Court of Justice of the European Union once again was in favour of a broad understanding of the concept of a consumer. Simultaneously, it confirmed that in assessing the status of a consumer it is inadmissible to apply criteria other than the fact of being a natural person and acting for the purposes not related to business or professional activity.

The reference of a Romanian court for a preliminary ruling concerned a credit agreement concluded with a bank by a natural person practising the profession of a lawyer. Repayment of the said credit was secured by a mortgage on the property owned by the lawyer’s law office. The borrower petitioned the court for declaring a provision of the credit agreement to be of unfair nature and return of the commission collected on the basis of that provision.

The national court had doubts as to whether a lawyer could be regarded as a consumer if the purpose thereof had not been indicated in the credit agreement and in this respect what was the meaning of the fact that the debt had been secured on a mortgage established by the same person but acting as a representative of the law office on assets intended for his professional activity, such as the property owned by this law office.

The Court noted that a lawyer concluding an agreement with an entrepreneur (a bank in this case) which is not related to exercising the profession of a lawyer has a weaker market position in comparison with a bank, therefore must be regarded as a consumer.

In such a case, even if it has been recognized that the lawyer represents a high level of professional knowledge, it cannot be assumed that he occupies a position equal to that of a bank because it would be contrary to the established criteria for being regarded as a consumer.

Moreover, the CJEU rightly acknowledged that the fact of a mortgage being established on the property owned by the lawyer’s office does not influence the assessment of his status as a consumer in the principal credit agreement.

  • judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 3 September 2015, file reference C-110/14

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