Key facts of the case:
Reference for a preliminary ruling — Consumer protection — Directive 93/13/EEC– Article 7(1) — Consumer credit — Review of whether the contractual terms are unfair — Failure of the consumer to appear at the hearing — Scope of the court’s powers and obligations.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Sixth Chamber) hereby rules:
Article 7(1) of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts must be interpreted as precluding the interpretation of a national provision whereby a court hearing an action brought against a consumer by a seller or supplier, which falls within the scope of Directive 93/13, and giving judgment in default, where that consumer has failed to appear at the hearing to which he was invited, is prevented from adopting the measures of inquiry needed in order to examine of its own motion whether the contractual terms on which the seller or supplier based its action are unfair, when that court has doubts as to whether those terms are unfair, within the meaning of that directive.
17) The referring court recalls the case-law of the Court of Justice, in particular, the judgments of 13 September 2018, Profi Credit Polska (C–176/17, EU:C:2018:711, paragraphs 40 and 57) and of 3 April 2019, Aqua Med (C–266/18, EU:C:2019:282, paragraph 47), according to which the provisions of national law must observe the principle of equivalence and the consumer’s right to an effective remedy, as laid down in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. While the principle of equivalence was observed by the provisions of Article 339(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure, which applies to all civil cases brought before the Polish courts, the referring court has doubts as to whether it is consistent with the right to an effective remedy, where the national court has no opportunity to examine of its own motion whether the contractual terms are unfair.
32) While the Court has thus previously circumscribed, on a number of occasions, taking account of the requirements set out in Article 6(1) and Article 7(1) of Directive 93/13, the manner in which national courts must guarantee the protection of rights which consumers derive from that directive, the fact remains that, in principle, EU law does not harmonise the procedures which apply for the assessment of an allegedly unfair contractual term, and that those procedures are therefore a matter for the national legal order, provided that they are not less favourable than those governing similar situations subject to domestic law (principle of equivalence) and that they afford effective judicial protection, as provided for in Article 47 of the Charter (judgments of 31 May 2018, Sziber, C–483/16, EU:C:2018:367, paragraph 35, and of 3 April 2019, Aqua Med, C–266/18, EU:C:2019:282, paragraph 47).