The Association for the Counselling of Consumers of Financial Services “ARD”, with the motto Action, Responsibility, Diligence / Actiune, Resposnabilitate, Diligenta, has its main office in Cluj Napoca, Calea Dorobanților, nr. 38/41, Building C, ap.9, Cluj county and a branch in Baia Mare, str. I.L. Caragiale, nr.7/84, jud. Maramureș.
The association is registered in the register of associations and foundations under no. 48/27/03/2019, it is also registered under no. 23 in the Register of consumer associations managed by ANPC. Contact details: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.consiliereconsumatori.ro, tel: 0730 078 888
(i) Association for Consumer Advice on Financial Services “ARD “, (the Association) is the result of the private initiative of a small number of individuals with expertise in the field of credit and financial services in general, as well as social services related to this field, focused on the protection of vulnerable people. It is a non-profit, non-profit-making association, a legal person under private law, supported by an interdisciplinary team ready to carry out the activities set out in its purpose.
Members of the Association have participated since 2020 in courses, meetings, working visits to national organisations in EU Member States that carry out consumer debt counselling activities, in order to learn about counselling models and the complex, interdisciplinary, holistic approach, including economic, legal, psycho-social perspectives of debt counselling.
The association aims to support and guide consumers of financial services, both those who choose to take out a loan and those who are facing (over)indebtedness or are at risk of over-indebtedness, by offering advice to obtain solutions best suited to their needs, payment possibilities and personal situation, which will ensure them a decent life, in order to improve their financial situation, prevent indebtedness, over-indebtedness and vulnerability, precarious economic situation, aiming at personal development, maintaining economic stability and proper social integration.
(ii) Consumer advice
In accordance with the purpose of the Association, according to the provisions of GEO 21/1992, art. 38, the activities of financial services consumer advice are the following:
advice in the form of personalised recommendations to a consumer on credit offers, credit agreements or one or more transactions related to credit agreements in an impartial manner and in the sole interest of the consumer, depending on the consumer’s financial situation, needs and preferences;
information, advice and education activities for individual consumers on products and services for them, including vulnerable consumers.
(iii) The Association’s “Financial Services Consumer Advice and Information Centre” was set up to carry out consumer education, information and advice, free and independent debt advice for vulnerable (over)indebted consumers.
Work in the centre can be carried out both in person and online via the website www.consiliereconsumatori.ro.
The Centre has two offices as follows: an office of the Centre at the headquarters of the Association in Cluj-Napoca, Calea Dorobantilor, no. 39-41, Corp C, ap.9, jud. Cluj and the second office of the Centre at the branch office in Baia Mare, str. I. L. Caragiale, nr. 7, ap. 84, jud. Maramureș.
(iv) Target (vulnerable) groups
The Association has organised a series of webinars, conferences, workshops, face-to-face and online meetings, consultations, research and working groups, as a result of which target groups of consumers have been identified who are doubly vulnerable, both economically and due to disability, age, health status, addictions, social exclusion, de-institutionalisation, migrants, refugees, groups facing (over)indebtedness. These groups are in acute need of free independent debt counselling and the Association works to support them.
(v) National collaborations
At national level, the Association has entered into a number of partnerships with local government bodies, social welfare bodies, associations providing protection for certain categories of vulnerable people and professional associations, with which it carries out joint activities focusing on over-indebtedness prevention and financial education.
(vi) ProConsFin Coalition – of consumer associations specialised in protecting consumers in the field of financial services
The Association is founder of ProConsFin Coalition of consumer associations specialized in protecting consumers in the field of financial services, together with the Association of Romanian Users of Financial Services (AURSF), President Alin Iacob and Consumatorii Uniți/Consumers United Association, President Calu Monica, coalition established in June 2023.
As they aim to ensure consumer protection in a specific, highly complex field, these associations have common activities and objectives, specific means and methods of ensuring consumer protection. One of the objectives of specialised consumer associations to protect consumers in the field of financial services, established at European level in several Member States as a remedy for consumers’ predicament, is financial education to prevent (over)indebtedness and free and independent debt advice for consumers.
The ARD Association will carry out, together with the associations of the ProConsFin Coalition, a series of actions so that the specialised associations acquire an increasing role and importance within the consumer association movement.
One of the first actions within the coalition was on the draft law PL-x 776/2022 on consumer protection. The ARD Association supports the proposals formulated and submitted to the Romanian Parliament, Chamber of Deputies, Committee for Industries and Services, by the Association of Romanian Users of Financial Services – AURSF, proposals also supported by the Consumers United Association.
The proposals focus on the inclusion in draft law PL-x 776/2022 of the aspects concerning the status of associations specialised in the field of consumer protection of financial services , which are found in the articles on:
– the participation of associations specialised in the field of financial services consumer protection in the national financial education campaign, so that, from pre-school age to senior citizens, all actors – ANPC, financial associations, specialised consumer associations – contribute to the process of making consumers aware of their financial obligations, their legal, economic and social consequences, budget analysis and savings benchmarks ;
– the signing of a cooperation protocol by the associations specialising in the protection of consumers of financial services, under which financial education campaigns will be conducted annually;
– support and fund, according to certain criteria, consumer information and advice centres to provide information, advice and debt counselling to (over)indebted consumers and to represent them in their dealings with financial service providers, with a view to supporting the decision taken by consumers following counselling;
– special representativeness requirements established for consumer associations specialised in protecting consumers in a particular field, such as financial services.
(vii) Relevant objectives
In view of the adoption of the new Consumer Credit Directive in September 2023 and in line with the provisions of Article 36 of the Directive, the provision of debt advice becomes compulsory. The ARD Association will focus, as a proactive participant in the forthcoming debates, on proposing the most effective solutions to transpose the Directive at national level.
Association for Consumer Advice on Financial Services “ARD”
Associate Professor, Rodica Diana Apan, PhD