Credit rights

When taking out consumer credit, there are rules in place to guarantee a way out, should it be needed.

The right to make informed decisions

Consumers have the right to obtain advertisements containing standard information, and  request information from the credit provider on the terms and conditions of the contract. This pre-contractual information has to contain all the standardised items, which will be later replicated in the contract.

The right to change your mind

 After signing a credit agreement, consumers have the right to change their mind and withdraw from credit agreement without giving any reason within 14 days. 

The right to pay back ahead of time

If consumers are able to pay back their credit earlier than foreseen in the contract, they have the right to pay back their credit ahead of time.

Consumer credit information

A creditor must always provide key information in a standardised format called the Standard European Consumer Credit Information form.

Such form must put out the total cost of the credit expressed as an annual percentage of the total amount of credit - the annual percentage rate of charge (APR) - to help consumers to compare different offers. The Commission issued Guidelines in 2012 on the cost of credit and the APR. The Commission issued Guidelines in 2012 on the cost of credit and the APR.

A calculator based on the Consumer Credit Directive provisions is available to help users (including regulators, consumers, creditors) calculating the APR of a given value of credit.

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Creditworthiness assessment: principles and mapping

In the Consumer Credit Directive it is required that creditors do not engage in irresponsible lending and that they should bear the responsibility of checking individually the creditworthiness of consumers.

In its March 2017 Consumer Financial Services Action Plan: Better Products, More Choice, the Commission announced it would seek to introduce common creditworthiness assessment standards and principles for lending to consumers. A mapping of national approaches to creditworthiness assessment under Directive 2008/48/EC has been prepared with the input of national authorities.

Over-indebtedness and Debt Advice

In the March 2017 Consumer Financial Services Action Plan, the European Commission committed to efficiently address consumer over-indebtedness linked to credit activities.

In 2008 and 2013, The Commission published two major studies on the over-indebtedness of European households, which both concluded that personalised debt advice is one of the most effective tools to address households' over-indebtedness.

A Stakeholder Forum on Debt Advice, ​attended by representatives of all the categories involved (financial and debt service industry, debt advisors, charities, consumer associations, experts from public administrations and academics) has taken place on 10 October 2018 to promote exchange of expertise on this topic.

Please find below the conclusions and the agenda.

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Distance marketing of financial services

Directive 2002/65/EC on distance marketing of financial services protects consumers when they sign a contract with a retail financial services provider in another EU country.

The Directive puts in place rules to ensure that the consumer receives comprehensive information from the provider and that he/she has the right to withdraw from the contract during a cooling-off period.  It prohibits abusive marketing practices and restricts other practices such as unsolicited phone calls and emails.

Behavioural study on digitalisation

The study looks into the impacts on consumers of practices used by providers of retail financial services when marketing and selling their products online and suggests ways to improve how consumers are informed when they look to obtain financial products on the internet, such as consumer credit or bank accounts.

Some of the main findings:

  • Consumers make better choices when information is provided to them upfront and saliently, at the right time and in a format that helps comparison. Information presented in one go, in a simple and structured comparison table particularly helps vulnerable consumers and users of smartphones.

  • Some practices nudge consumers into making speedy purchasing decisions, which can cause consumers to make rushed, and potentially bad, decisions. The study shows that slowing down the process improve consumer decision.

The study has also collected evidence on the impact on consumers of a few additional practices, such as those pertaining to the design of the product, the use of personalisation and targeting techniques and the use of tools to help consumers in their decision-making process.

Findings from the study will inform the ongoing evaluations of the Directives on Consumer Credit and Distance Marketing of Financial Services to be finalised at the end of 2019.

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