Objectives and Ideas of the Conference
- Inform about predatory as well as responsible lending practices in Europe.
- Discuss legislative efforts at EU, US and national levels.
- Promote co-operation between Social Organisations in Europe and America.
- Facilitate communication between Banks and NGOs.
- Raise consciousness on predatory lending practices and overindebteness.
- Create a European Coalition for Responsible Credit (ECRC).
New forms of consumer credit have appeared in Europe. Suppliers of financial
services have emphasized the benefits of wider credit availability but there are costs as
well. Revolving credit, credit pyramiding, payday loans, high-priced credit card
transactions, costly overdraft protection, forced cross selling and the appearance of
predatory lending have turned consumer credit into a serious threat to individual wellbeing
and social cohesion.
Different providers of financial services have reacted differently to this new
environment. Some have offered products and procedures that recognize the need to
act responsibly; others have acted as if all responsibility lay with individual consumers
or settled for promoting only financial education. In response, national governments
have introduced rules to prevent abuse and bankruptcy schemes to create an
“escape hatch” for the overindebted.
Late last year, the European Commission introduced a new Draft of the Consumer
Credit Directive that has been in preparation for some years now. In the eyes of
consumer and welfare organizations, the new Directive could significantly weaken EU
regulation of small bank loans, credit card and non-bank lending, threatening national
consumer protection laws. It would encourage easy access to credit on the internet
and through unreliable sources, leave hard-to-understand linked products without
adequate price disclosure, and discourage responsible lending principles.
Discriminatory pricing is not mentioned, and official statements characterize national
usury laws as obstacles to competition.
Previous iff international conferences on financial services on Overindebtedness and
Unemployment (Hamburg 1989); Consumer Bankruptcy (Birmingham 1992); Bank Safety
and Responsibility towards the Consumer (Bergamo 1993); Banque et Region(Strasbourg 1996)
; Access to Financial Services (Gothenburg 2000) have brought
together politicians, NGO representatives, bankers and academics to discuss these
issues and plan appropriate responses. The focus of these still EU-sponsored
conferences was the legitimate concerns of users and society about banking and
financing in general and about consumer credit in particular.
The next conference will take place in Brussels in collaboration with the US National
Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and will be preceded by national
conferences in different European countries. The goal will be to try to find global
answers to recent problems, including regulatory approaches on both continents. It
invites responsible suppliers to support this independent event and meet
representatives of NGOs, government agencies and science to discuss their part in the
development of sustainable and responsible lending in the future.