The Over-Indebtedness of European Consumers – A View from Six Countries

EUI working paper law 2014/10

319 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2014

See all articles by Irina Domurath

Irina Domurath

Central University of Chile

Guido Comparato

European University Institute

Hans‐W. Micklitz

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

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

Suggested Citation

Domurath, Irina and Comparato, Guido and Micklitz, Hans-W., The Over-Indebtedness of European Consumers – A View from Six Countries (2014). EUI working paper law 2014/10, Available at SSRN: or

Irina Domurath (Contact Author)

Central University of Chile ( email )

Guido Comparato

European University Institute ( email )

Villa Schifanoia
133 via Bocaccio
Firenze (Florence), Tuscany 50014

Hans-W. Micklitz

European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW) ( email )

Via Boccaccio 121 (Villa Schifanoia)
I-50122 Firenze

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