As thousands of British buyers of properties in Cyprus are getting ready to take on the banks before their claims are time-barred on 31/12/2013 advice to take action in Cyprus instead of England could come at heavy cost.Although a few hundred Britons are now taking action against the banks and property developers for misselling there are still many thousands that are undecided. Furthermore, although a large number are taking collective action in Britain, there are many who are being enticed to take action in Cyprus.
George Kounis, the lead Consultant at Maxwell Alves solicitors, said:
"This could be a fatal decision. There are certain ingredients for a successful claim: a valid cause of action and who represents you are essential, but for Cyprus Property matters, the court that hears the case is just as important."
"We believe there is a case of misselling but whether the finer details of how these people were led into signing will be taken into account by a court in Cyprus remains to be seen. In England, we say, the ‘devil is in the detail’. n Cyprus they say ‘the way to sell is to conceal’ and we are concerned that courts in Cyprus appear to uphold the seller’s right to conceal. This could make the difference between finding justice and facing injustice in court.”
“Whether the case is heard in England, therefore or in Cyprus may determine a successful or an unsuccessful outcome. In this respect, advice to file a claim in Cyprus when a UK domiciled consumer has the right of a hearing in England under the EU consumer protection provisions in Brussels I, may be the wrong advice. Another issue is cost and although legal costs in England may be more expensive, by having a collective claim the costs can be slashed because they are shared between claimants. It is not possible to file a collective action in Cyprus. It is only possible to apply to have actions joined together later in the proceedings. The more people that join a collective action in England the lower the costs and in addition, we can afford to hire top QCs to represent our clients as opposed to being represented by a local firm in Cyprus. This means that an individual can take on banks and large property developers and be able to afford the costs and match or outbid them on the quality of representation.”
Asked about how to protect the large number of UK consumers who are being sued by the banks in Cyprus, George Kounis has a simple answer: "Do not defend in Cyprus. Challenge the jurisdiction of the Cypriot court instead."
On the Marshall Case (reported in the Cyprus Property News in an article on 09/03/2013 which concluded that following a challenge on the jurisdiction by the Marshalls at the Larnaca District Court, “Judge David ruled that the correct jurisdiction was … The Republic of Cyprus”), George Kounis commented:
“After analysing the judgment, we do not consider Judge David to have made such a ruling. All he said was that in the absence of evidence that they were UK consumers, he could not rule on that at that stage of the proceedings. This is not the same as ruling that the court has jurisdiction. In any event, a Cypriot court is obliged to uphold Brussels I and if it fails to do this, any judgment that the bank tries to register in England may be overturned. The key is how to present the challenge to the court and owners should be well advised on how to do this before taking this step.”