Just one day after the European Court of Justice announced that Spanish banks will have to refund their clients with all the money they have overpaid through mortgage floor rate clauses, courts in Malaga had already begun to comply with the ECJ's decision.
The ECJ issued its decision on Wednesday 21 December and the following day the Malaga district court number 8 made decisions in two cases, finding in favour of the bank clients each time and ordering the banks - Unicaja and Catalunya Banc in these cases - to refund all the extra money they had been received since the mortgages were taken out.
On the same day, the Malaga provincial court also made two decisions in line with the European Court of Justice sentence, although it appears that the parties in those cases have not yet been officially notified.
One of the cases heard by the district court was that of 59-year-old Concepción Gámez, who was overjoyed at the decision. "I'm so happy; I still don't know how much they will have to pay me back, but I'm so pleased to be getting it anyway. Why should the bank be able to hold on to my money?" she said.
Concepción took out a 90,000 euro mortgage with Unicaja in 2004, and she decided to go to court to demand that her floor rate clause was abusive and should be declared invalid just over a year ago, after seeing an advertisement on television. Her interest rate was set at a minimum of 2.9 per cent a year.
The other sentence issued by the district court last Thursday was in relation to a mortgage taken out with Catalunya Banc in 2010, which had a minimum interest rate of 3.5 per cent a year. The client had also asked for the clause to be declared invalid on the grounds of a lack of transparency, saying that he didn't know what a mortgage floor rate clause was and nobody had explained it to him.
The sentence by the European Court of Justice has encouraged many other people to demand a refund from their banks, and consumers' associations and legal firms say they are being overwhelmed with enquiries. It is estimated that in Malaga province more than 50,000 people could be affected.
The cases above are the first to have been resolved in accordance with the ECJ decision, but they are not the first in which the banks have been ordered to make full refunds to clients in Malaga province. A few days earlier a court ordered a bank to refund all the extra money it had received since the mortgage began, because the judge considered that the contract the client had signed was not clear, specific and straightforward, as it is supposed to be by law.