Around half a million indebted Polish homeowners have won their fight to be freed from crippling Swiss franc mortgages.
The Swiss currency has doubled in value since 2008, sending mortgage-holders’ debts soaring.
Now, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that they can ask Poland’s courts to let them convert their loans into the Polish zloty.
More than one in five Polish mortgages is held in Swiss francs.
Finance Minister Jerzy Kwiecinski said it was good news for consumers but the ruling was an unexpected blow for Poland’s banking sector. Officials said the banks were well prepared but the banks are preparing for losses running into tens of billions of zloty.
Justyna Dziubak, who brought the case, celebrated her victory: “I’ve been fighting the banks for three years. It was worth it.”
Around 700,000 Polish households took out mortgages in foreign currencies in the years after Poland joined the EU in 2004. They have become known in Poland as “Frankowitzes”.
They were not alone – Hungarians, Croats and Austrians did the same, attracted by low interest rates.