The Over-Indebtedness of European Consumers – A View from Six Countries
EUI working paper law 2014/10
319 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2014
Date Written: 2014
Six years into the global economic and financial crisis, many European countries have suffered profound economic, political, and social repercussions. Governmental and constitutional crises, high levels of public debt, the adoption of austerity measures, unprecedented levels of unemployment, and the spreading of poverty have marked many European societies. While the EU is in the process of re-examining the whole design of the banking system with far-reaching political and institutional consequences, the impact of the economic crisis on indebted consumers, and specifically those with mortgages, has been much less discussed. The Working Paper presents the result of a research on the effects of the financial and EURO crisis in six European countries within and outside the Eurozone (Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal, Romania, and Spain) having in common that they received international bailout loans under the condition of implementing intrusive austerity measures. In those countries consumers are still facing increasing levels of (over-)indebtedness and struggle with the effects of the crisis, both in financial and social terms. In this light, the studies pay attention to both the social reality and the legal change which is undergoing as triggered by legislative reforms and judicial decisions. The studies also lay open the shortcomings of a EU consumer policy which is largely based on the image of the reasonably circumspect consumer who is supposed to be autonomous, self-reliant, and reasonably well informed. In this regard, the EU suffers from a clear internal market bias that promotes and requires easy access to consumer and mortgage credit, without paying sufficient attention to the possible drawbacks in terms of social exclusion.
Keywords: over-indebtedness, household debt, financial crisis, internal market, Eurozone
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