The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that depositors in the Corporate Commercial Bank had no legal interest to appeal against the decision of the Governing Board of the Bulgarian National Bank on the reduction of interest rates applied to deposits held

On 9 October 2014, the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC), Eighth Division, ruled on Administrative Case No. 9507/2014 not to hear the appeal filed by a group of natural persons against the decision of the Governing Board of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) of 30 June 2014 to lower the interest rates on deposits with that bank down to the average market levels in the banking system and to discontinue the case.

The court accepted that the appealed decision did constitute an individual administrative act within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act but the natural persons who were clients of the bank were not addressees of that decision and had no right to appeal against it. That conclusion was justified with the nature of the relationships between the bank and its clients under the contracts between them; those relationships were of contractual nature and based on equal footing, going beyond the scope of procedure under the Credit Institutions Act (within the framework of which the appealed decision was issued). The appellants were not a party to and did not participate in the procedure of issuance of the appealed administrative act; therefore the act neither affected their rights and legitimate interests nor generated any obligations for them.

The panel of judges of the Eighth Division invoked the judgment of the Constitutional Court in Constitutional Case No. 18/1995, which examined the criteria for appeallability of administrative acts in accordance with Article 120(2) of the Constitution. The SAC made reference to the opinion of the Constitutional Court that the provision in question brought together two constitutional norms of different nature: a procedural norm which defined the scope of persons with active legitimation to seek remedy and a substantive norm which specified the constitutional criteria for appeallability of administrative acts. Thus the requirement for the appealed act to affect the appellant was considered a mandatory constitutional precondition, whereas the term “to affect” was clarified by means of interpretation in conjunction with Article 56 of the Constituti! on, regulating the fundamental right to remedy of every citizen “in cases when the citizen’s rights or legitimate interests are violated or threatened”.

Having established that the depositors were parties to contractual relationships with the bank itself but not parties to the procedure of issuance of the appealed administrative act concerning bank supervision matters, the Court accepted that the act did not affect their rights and legitimate interests directly. The reasons of the court judgment developed along the lines of the protection of public interest: if it was recognized that the appellants, in their capacity of parties to civil relationships with the banks, had direct interest in appealing against BNB acts concerning bank supervision matters, that would largely render senseless supervision itself in the way in which it is regulated in the Credit Institutions Act as a set of rules providing substantive legal grounds for the issuance of administrative acts like the appealed one.

The ruling of 9 October 2014 is subject to appeal before a five-member panel of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court which will give its final judgment on the admissibility of judicial review of the lawfulness of the BNB act on the reduction of interest rates applicable to deposits with the Corporate Commercial Bank.