créditos al consumo
Con carácter general, los Tribunales españoles han venido conociendo sobre reclamaciones de pago de cuotas de amortización de préstamos concedidos a consumidores, en las que además de las cuotas impagadas, se venían solicitando los intereses moratorios pactados, que habitualmente rondan el 29% anual. La cuestión que se plantea es si puede considerarse abusiva la cláusula que fija los intereses moratorios en esa cuantía y las consecuencias de la declaración de ese carácter abusivo.

créditos al consumo
Spanish courts have generally come to know about payment claims of repayment fees of loans given to consumers, in which, as well as the unpaid fees, agreed moratory interests were being requested. These usually amount to 29% annually. The question being asked is whether the term which establishes the moratory interest as this amount is unfair and the consequences of the declaration of it being unfair.

créditos al consumo
Spanish courts have generally come to know about payment claims of repayment fees of loans given to consumers, in which, as well as the unpaid fees, agreed moratory interests were being requested. These usually amount to 29% annually. The question being asked is whether the term which establishes the moratory interest as this amount is unfair and the consequences of the declaration of it being unfair.

De las dos cuestiones que se plantearon, la STJUE de 14 de Junio de 2.012 resuelve la segunda (una vez declarada nula por abusiva una cláusula se tiene por no puesta, sin que el juez pueda modificar o integrar su contenido), pero no la primera: ¿Cuándo debemos entender que los intereses moratorios son abusivos?. No cabe aplicar por analogía el artículo 20.4 de la Ley 16/2011 de Contratos de Crédito al Consumo ni tampoco puede acudirse al límite del artículo 7 de la Ley 3/2004 de medidas de lucha contra la morosidad en las operaciones comerciales.

La STJUE de 14 de Junio de 2.012 parece dejar sin efecto el artículo 83.2 del Texto Refundido de la Ley General para la defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios, que permite al juez integrar y moderar el contrato tras la declaración de nulidad de la cláusula abusiva. Sin embargo, el precepto no queda sin efecto, pues la imposibilidad de reducir o moderar las cláusulas abusivas no opera en todo caso, sino sólo en aquellas cláusulas cuantitativas susceptibles de reducción parcial, tales como las cláusulas de intereses y las cláusulas penales.

Nuestra Jurisprudencia ya se ha pronunciado al respecto, fiel reflejo es la Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Baleares de 28 de Noviembre de 2.012. Según esta Sentencia, cuando las cláusulas abusivas no afectan de forma sustancial al equilibrio diseñado por las partes, la validez y conservación del contrato por un lado, y la nulidad de las cláusulas abusivas por otro, no ofrece especiales dificultades a nivel dogmático, al regir la regla utile per inutile non vitiatur, común en el ámbito contractual, afirmando la STS de 22 de Diciembre de 2.008 que “La jurisprudencia, en efecto, con arreglo al aforismo utile per inutile non vitiatur (la parte útil no resulta viciada por la inútil), declara que en aquellos casos en los cuales el contrato o el acto jurídico contiene algún acto contrario a la ley, pero consta que se habría concertado sin la parte nula (cosa que no ocurre cuando las cláusulas subsistentes determinen una situación no equitativa de las posiciones de las partes, principio que se recoge en el artículo 10 LDCU), procede únicamente declarar su nulidad parcial (SSTS de 17 de octubre de 1987, 22 de abril de 1988, 15 de febrero de 1991, 23 de junio de 1992, 18 de marzo de 1998, 25 de septiembre de 2006)”.

La STJUE de 14 de Junio de 2.012, recuerda su doctrina, relativa al examen de oficio el carácter abusivo de una cláusula contractual suscrita por un consumidor, en el caso sobre intereses de demora, supuesto en que el juez nacional debe apreciar de oficio el carácter abusivo de una cláusula contractual incluida en el ámbito de aplicación de la Directiva 93/13 y, de este modo, subsanar el desequilibrio que existe entre el consumidor y el profesional; no se trata sólo de una facultad sino de una obligación de pronunciarse sobre el carácter abusivo de una cláusula contractual tan pronto como disponga de los elementos de hecho y de Derecho necesarios para ello. La segunda de la cuestiones planteadas al Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea planteaba la conformidad o no con el artículo 6.1 de la Directiva 93/13 CE de la facultad integradora del juez contemplada en el ya citado artículo 83 TRLCU, y en relación a ella se dice por el Tribunal que en cuanto al art. 6.1 el primer fragmento de frase de dicha disposición, si bien reconoce a los Estados miembros cierto margen de autonomía en lo que atañe a la definición del régimen jurídico aplicable a las cláusulas abusivas, les impone expresamente la obligación de establecer que tales cláusulas «no vincularán al consumidor» y que el contrato celebrado entre el profesional y el consumidor seguirá siendo obligatorio para las partes «en los mismos términos», si éste puede subsistir «sin las cláusulas abusivas». Así pues, del tenor literal del apartado 1 del citado art. 6 resulta que los jueces nacionales están obligados únicamente a dejar sin aplicación la cláusula contractual abusiva, a fin de que ésta no produzca efectos vinculantes para el consumidor, sin estar facultados los Jueces para modificar el contenido de la misma. Si el juez nacional tuviera la facultad de modificar el contenido de las cláusulas abusivas que figuran en tales contratos, dicha facultad podría poner en peligro la consecución del objetivo a largo plazo previsto en el art. 7 de la Directiva 93/13.

La conclusión, como antes hemos apuntado, es que una vez declarada abusiva la cláusula de fijación de intereses moratorios, los jueces sólo pueden dejarla sin efecto sin poder modificar su contenido, ni moderarla, ni integrarla. La cláusula es nula, se elimina y se tiene por no puesta. El Juez lo único que puede hacer es aplicar el artículo 1.108 del Código Civil que prevé para el supuesto de mora del deudor una indemnización equivalente al interés legal del dinero, siendo esta la única cantidad que en concepto de intereses moratorios puede cobrar la parte prestamista.

Of the two questions asked, the ruling of the ECJ of June 14th, 2012, resolves the second (once declared null due to the term being unfair, it will be removed, without the judge being able to modify or integrate the contents). However the first question, of when we must consider the moratory interests as unfair, was not answered. It is not enough to apply article 20.4 of Law 16/2011 on Consumer Credit Contracts as an analogy, nor to go to the extreme of article 7 of Law 3/2004 of measures to combat against delay in payment in commercial operations.

The ruling of the ECJ of June 14, 2012 seems to render ineffective the article 83.2 of the Consolidated Text of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users (LDCU), which allows the judge to integrate and moderate the contract after the declaration of invalidity of an unfair term. However, the provision is not left void, as the impossibility of reducing or moderating unfair terms does not operate in any case, but just the quantitative terms susceptible to partial reduction, such as interest terms and penalty clauses.

Our Case Law has already been declared in this regard. The Ruling of the Provincial Court of the Balearic Islands on November 28th, 2012 is a faithful reflection. According to this Ruling, when unfair terms do not substantially affect the balance planned upon by both parties, the validity and conservation of the contract on one hand, and the invalidity of the unfair terms on the other, does not present exceptional difficulties on a doctrinal level. This is when governing the utile per inutile non vitiatur rule (what is useful is not vitiated by the useless), which is common in the field of contracts. This affirms the STS (Ruling of the Supreme Court) of December 22nd, 2008 that “Case law, in fact, according to the aphorism utile per inutile non vitiatur, declares that in cases where the contract or legal act contains an act that is contrary to the law, but which was agreed without the invalid part (which does not happen when the terms that still exist determine a situation that is not fair to the positions of the parties, a principal from article 10 LDCU), only partial invalidity should be declared (Ruling of the Supreme Court of October 17th, 1987, April 22nd, 1988, February 15th, 1991, June 23rd, 1992, March 18th, 1998, September 25th, 2006)”.

The Ruling of the ECJ on June 14th, 2012, recalls its jurisprudence, relating to the ex officio examination, the unfair nature of a contractual term signed by a consumer, in the case concerning delayed payment interests, a scenario in which the national court must consider, of its own motion, the unfairness of a contractual term included in the field of application of Directive 93/1. In this way it must rectify the imbalance that exists between the consumer and the professional. It is not a case of the power to, but the obligation to rule on the unfairness of a contractual term as soon as the legal and factual elements necessary are available. The second question posed to the Court of Justice of the European Union concerned the conformity, or non-conformity with article 6.1 of EC Directive 93/13 of the ability of integration of the court considered in the abovementioned article 83 Consolidated Text of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users. In addition, relating to this, the Court states, concerning article 6.1, the first part of the sentence of said provision, although it allows Member States a certain extent of autonomy for what is concerned with the definition of the legal regime applicable to unfair terms, the express obligation of establishing that such terms “are not to be linked with the consumer” is imposed, as well as that the contract held by the professional and the consumer will continue to be obligatory for the parties “on the same terms” if this can substitute “without the unfair terms”. Thus, from the literal wording of section 1 of the aforementioned article 6 it is evident that the national courts are only obliged to leave the unfair contractual term inapplicable, with the aim that it will not produce binding effects for the consumer, without the courts being able to modify its content. If the national court had the ability to modify the content of the unfair terms within such contracts, said ability could jeopardize the achievement of the long term objectives from article 7 of Directive 93/13.

The conclusion, as we have noted before, is that once the term on moratory interest is declared unfair, the courts can only make it invalid, without being able to modify its contents, or moderate or integrate it. The term is invalid, is deleted and is declared void. The only thing that the court can do is apply article 1.108 of the Civil Code that stipulates compensation equivalent to the legal interest of the money, in cases of delayed payment from the debtor, this being the only quantity that by way of moratory interests may be charged by the lending party.

 

Of the two questions asked, the ruling of the ECJ of June 14th, 2012, resolves the second (once declared null due to the term being unfair, it will be removed, without the judge being able to modify or integrate the contents). However the first question, of when we must consider the moratory interests as unfair, was not answered. It is not enough to apply article 20.4 of Law 16/2011 on Consumer Credit Contracts as an analogy, nor to go to the extreme of article 7 of Law 3/2004 of measures to combat against delay in payment in commercial operations.

The ruling of the ECJ of June 14, 2012 seems to render ineffective the article 83.2 of the Consolidated Text of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users (LDCU), which allows the judge to integrate and moderate the contract after the declaration of invalidity of an unfair term. However, the provision is not left void, as the impossibility of reducing or moderating unfair terms does not operate in any case, but just the quantitative terms susceptible to partial reduction, such as interest terms and penalty clauses.

Our Case Law has already been declared in this regard. The Ruling of the Provincial Court of the Balearic Islands on November 28th, 2012 is a faithful reflection. According to this Ruling, when unfair terms do not substantially affect the balance planned upon by both parties, the validity and conservation of the contract on one hand, and the invalidity of the unfair terms on the other, does not present exceptional difficulties on a doctrinal level. This is when governing the utile per inutile non vitiatur rule (what is useful is not vitiated by the useless), which is common in the field of contracts. This affirms the STS (Ruling of the Supreme Court) of December 22nd, 2008 that “Case law, in fact, according to the aphorism utile per inutile non vitiatur, declares that in cases where the contract or legal act contains an act that is contrary to the law, but which was agreed without the invalid part (which does not happen when the terms that still exist determine a situation that is not fair to the positions of the parties, a principal from article 10 LDCU), only partial invalidity should be declared (Ruling of the Supreme Court of October 17th, 1987, April 22nd, 1988, February 15th, 1991, June 23rd, 1992, March 18th, 1998, September 25th, 2006)”.

The Ruling of the ECJ on June 14th, 2012, recalls its jurisprudence, relating to the ex officio examination, the unfair nature of a contractual term signed by a consumer, in the case concerning delayed payment interests, a scenario in which the national court must consider, of its own motion, the unfairness of a contractual term included in the field of application of Directive 93/1. In this way it must rectify the imbalance that exists between the consumer and the professional. It is not a case of the power to, but the obligation to rule on the unfairness of a contractual term as soon as the legal and factual elements necessary are available. The second question posed to the Court of Justice of the European Union concerned the conformity, or non-conformity with article 6.1 of EC Directive 93/13 of the ability of integration of the court considered in the abovementioned article 83 Consolidated Text of the General Law for the Defence of Consumers and Users. In addition, relating to this, the Court states, concerning article 6.1, the first part of the sentence of said provision, although it allows Member States a certain extent of autonomy for what is concerned with the definition of the legal regime applicable to unfair terms, the express obligation of establishing that such terms “are not to be linked with the consumer” is imposed, as well as that the contract held by the professional and the consumer will continue to be obligatory for the parties “on the same terms” if this can substitute “without the unfair terms”. Thus, from the literal wording of section 1 of the aforementioned article 6 it is evident that the national courts are only obliged to leave the unfair contractual term inapplicable, with the aim that it will not produce binding effects for the consumer, without the courts being able to modify its content. If the national court had the ability to modify the content of the unfair terms within such contracts, said ability could jeopardize the achievement of the long term objectives from article 7 of Directive 93/13.

The conclusion, as we have noted before, is that once the term on moratory interest is declared unfair, the courts can only make it invalid, without being able to modify its contents, or moderate or integrate it. The term is invalid, is deleted and is declared void. The only thing that the court can do is apply article 1.108 of the Civil Code that stipulates compensation equivalent to the legal interest of the money, in cases of delayed payment from the debtor, this being the only quantity that by way of moratory interests may be charged by the lending party.