On 18 October 2016, the Croatian National Bank received a ruling issued by the High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia refuting the claim filed by the CNB for the cancellation of the decision issued by the Information Commissioner requiring submission of information on the conversion of loans in Swiss francs, earlier requested by Udruga Franak from the CNB on 19 January this year. The ruling came after the CNB, following the receipt of the Commissioner's decision, requested from the High Administrative Court to examine the Commissioner's decision, taking into account, in particular, the fact that three Croatian laws prescribe the obligation of the CNB to protect the secrecy and confidentiality of information of which it becomes aware in the course of carrying out its duties, and the delivery of which to Udruga Franak was ordered pursuant to the Commissioner's decision.
The protection of secrecy and confidentiality of such information is prescribed by Article 206 of the Credit Institutions Act, Article 23, paragraph (5) of the Consumer Credit Act and Article 53 of the Act on the Croatian National Bank. Taking into account the given legislative restrictions, the CNB responded to two, out of the total of five requests by Udruga Franak, directly to Udruga Franak already in February this year, and has concluded, in the case of the remaining three request, after having conducted the proportionality and public interest test, that the provision of the requested information would be in breach of the three previously mentioned acts.
The CNB has, taking into account the regulation governing information secrecy and confidentiality, published in the Semi-annual Information, information on CNB activities in the course of procedures of the conversion of loans in Swiss francs, without naming the banks. More specifically, for the purpose of supervising and monitoring consumer protection, the CNB received and processed over 2,251 consumer complaints; 27,220 annexes to loan agreement were amended with disputed provisions being left out; 6,954 new or recalculated conversion calculations were made and offered to clients in two banks; for 400 clients of one bank corrections were made to calculations, using the interest rate on the correct date and 544 new conversion calculations were also delivered to clients with cancelled loans. And, last but not least, formal measures were taken against the banks in which illegalities had been detected in the implementation of the AACCA (reports on examination findings, decisions and minor offence proceedings) – the CNB issued five reports on examination findings and two decisions, and initiated three minor offence proceedings.
The ruling of the High Administrative Court is extremely important as this is the first time that a court in the Republic of Croatia has decided, having determined that the public interest prevails, that secret and confidential banking and supervisory information, available to the CNB which are prescribed as such by the previously mentioned acts and the secrecy and confidentiality of which have been found by the CNB, based on a proportionality test, to prevail, be disclosed in the procedure of the exercise of the right of access to information. In this respect, this ruling sets a precedent in court practice on banking supervision which could have a significant impact in the future.
The CNB will act in accordance with the ruling of the High Administrative Court of the Republic of Croatia. However, when disclosing and submitting information, as well as in the implementation of the proportionality tests for future requests for access to information, the CNB will continue to weigh closely the interest of the public for access to requested information against the obligation to keep the confidentiality and secrecy of the collected supervisory information in accordance with the legislation of the Republic of Croatia and the EU regulating bank supervision.