What to do in the event of a consumer credit dispute?

Lack of information, breach of contract, unfair clause? A private individual is far from destitute in the face of a credit organization of which he would consider himself the victim.

In consumer credit matters, the settlement of disputes requires several successive remedies which are all stages during which your problem can find a solution acceptable to all parties, well before going to court.

Do not hesitate to take steps now if you notice any anomalies. Over the monthly payments, your damage could end up amounting to hundreds, even thousands of euros of undue interest.

Consumer credit: a dispute can always arise!

Consumer credit: a dispute can always arise!

Consumer credit is the subject of complex legislation, but which also aims to be as protective as possible for the borrower. It is therefore not uncommon for the credit institution, in good or bad faith, to make an error which causes you harm. Among the most classic disputes, the following scenarios can be cited :

  • The credit institution did not provide you with a standardized credit information sheet before the funds were paid out.
  • He did not take sufficient credit for your solvency, or lent you a manifestly excessive amount in view of your repayment capacity, and which is putting you in difficulty today.
  • Your withdrawal period has not been respected.
  • You have spotted, after signing, a clause in the contract that seems unfair to you.
  • The rate applicable to your revolving credit has been greatly increased without any notice.

All the disputes mentioned above involve a fault committed by the lender. On the other hand, if the consumer credit was granted under normal conditions, you will not be able to turn against the credit organization under the pretext of payment difficulties.

As a reminder: A credit commits you and must be reimbursed. In the most critical situations, it is better to consider a credit buyback operation or even the opening of a file with the debt commission.

First step: amicable recourse

First step: amicable recourse

In the event of a problem, it is useless and even counterproductive to start hostilities immediately! The error of your credit organization can have an involuntary origin. This is the reason why the first step consists in contacting customer service by telephone or by e-mail within the framework of an amicable recourse.

 An amicable recourse may be envisaged if, for example, the rate applicable to your revolving credit has been greatly increased, without notice. Explain your difficulty as precisely as possible, without forgetting to quote the clauses of the contract or even the regulatory texts which, in your opinion, were not respected. Then give a few days to customer service to come back to you and offer you a solution.

Failing agreement, it is time to move on to a more formal communication with the lender. Send a registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt to the attention of customer service. You will detail there again the nature of your dispute, without forgetting to attach all the supporting documents which could argue in your favor. Last but not least, don’t forget to keep a copy at all for your personal records.

Second step: mediation

Second step: mediation

Any credit organization in principle has a mediator, responsible for settling disputes between customers against the establishment out of court. This obligation is in any case laid down by the Monetary and Financial Code (article L316-1). You will find the contact details of the credit institution mediator on your account statement.

Referral to the mediator is subject to a double condition: you must first of all have exhausted the usual internal remedies (customer service, litigation service, etc.), or at least have tried your luck in this way. Referral to the mediator of your credit organization obeys a procedure that is both flexible and simple: remember to request it!

Note also that you must not have already started a legal action, in which case the mediator would no longer be competent to rule on your case. The referral to the mediator must therefore take place at a specific time in your challenge process, when you no longer have any other friendly remedy at your disposal.

It would be a shame to dispense with the opinion of the mediator. His services are completely free and relatively quick, since he has the obligation to process your file within three months. Within this period, it issues a recommendation which is certainly not binding on the credit institution, but which will nevertheless be followed by the latter in an overwhelming majority of cases.

Third step: consult a lawyer and consumer associations

Third step: consult a lawyer and consumer associations

A negative opinion from the mediator is most often a very bad signal for you. Nevertheless, and if you really feel that you are in your right, it is time to surround yourself well before moving on to the legal phase!

Like the UFC-Que Choisir, the various consumer associations are all able to help and advise you in the event of a dispute relating to a consumer credit. Your preference, however, may go to the French Association of Bank Users (AFUB), which has specific and recognized expertise in the matter.

Consumer associations will give you precious support if they consider your request justified. You could even learn, through them, that you are far from being the only borrower affected by the same abusive practice!

Before initiating proceedings before the courts, it is important to seek the services of a lawyer specializing in consumer law. Note that the presence of a lawyer during the procedure is not compulsory, but you will have almost no chance of winning if you dispense with it…

What about legal protection?
A legal aid guarantee may cover all or part of the costs of lawyers and the courts. However, be careful “very often, the legal protections incorporated into a home insurance type contract remain limited to claims related to a claim guaranteed by this same contract. These guarantees will therefore be ineffective for any dispute linked to a consumer credit, unlike legal protection subscribed specifically in this context ”.

Fourth step: legal action

Fourth step: legal action

The competent jurisdiction in consumer credit is the district court of your place of residence, whatever the amount of the sums at stake. As from the realization of your damage, know that you have a legal deadline to go to court. Beyond that, the facts will be prescribed. The procedures for referral may vary:

  • For loans of less than $ 4,000, a simple declaration must be made to the registry, on plain paper or using the bank form n ° 11764 * 07, enclosing all of your supporting documents.
  • For higher amounts, it is necessary to request a bailiff to have the credit institution summoned.

If you succeed, the judge may in particular award you damages or even pronounce the “forfeiture” of the lender concerning his right to receive interest. This means that you will only have to repay the capital, possibly increased by the legal interest rate!

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