The Financial Ombudsman took part in St. Petersburg International Legal Forum 9½ “Laws of the Coronavirus” 13.04.2020.

Chief Financial Ombudsman Yuri Voronin took part in two sessions of St. Petersburg International Legal Forum (SPBILF), which was held on April 10-12.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers decided to postpone the 10th anniversary SPBILF until May 18-22, 2021 (originally planned on May 19-23, 2020), but did not completely abandon the event this year. As a result, an intermediate SPBILF 9½ “Laws of the Coronavirus” took place, during which the speakers met online.

Yuri Voronin moderated the session “The Sphere of Labour and Social Protection in the Post-Virus Period: Search for New Places and Roles”. Opening the discussion, the Chief Financial Ombudsman stated that social and labour topics traditionally remained on the periphery of the agendas of legal forums. But the prevailing conditions caused the legal community to pay close attention to the issue. “Such emergencies make it possible to carry out not just minor amendments, which do not significantly improve and change the system, but really come to cardinal decisions for the implementation of which the necessary opportunities appear,” said Voronin. The discussion experts touched upon the issues of transformation of labour relations in the current conditions, which will be expressed also in changes in the forms of employment of the population, as well as issues arising from this effect that social guarantees and social protection of citizens have on the system. “Coronavirus is not going to not introduce new trends, it’ll simply strengthen and accelerate current processes: hiring will no longer dominate, other forms of employment will take place. And these forms will require specific forms of social protection,” said Voronin.

According to him, at the end of the pandemic it would be necessary to construct a social matrix of a person’s life cycle that would reveal the social security of Russians and allow an analysis of which guarantees should remain budgetary. And one of the key elements of the whole system should be the unconditional basic income of a citizen. “All previous methods protected a person in a state of disability. That is, if he or she is able-bodied, they are able to protect themselves from family problems and adversities with their earnings. And in a situation where the salary is not high, when people are forced to work not for high income, but simply for the sake of employment, even for free, as volunteers, here the unconditional basic income should take its toll niche as a universal element related to working capacity. All this should be very competently built in the form of a social matrix of the life cycle as the main tool of social protection in the post-viral period of time,” Voronin added.

The second session of the forum with the participation of the Chief Financial Ombudsman touched upon the topic of protecting the rights of consumers of financial services during the pandemic. The participants in the discussion dwelt in detail on the anti-crisis measures in the financial market taken by the Russian authorities and the issues of creating a comfortable regime for citizens. Experts noted that in recent years, legislation in the field of consumer protection has been developing rapidly in Russia. In addition to the judiciary, specialized institutions work in the interests of consumers, such is the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Yuri Voronin said that in the pandemic, the Financial Ombudsman Service continues to work with complaints and claims from consumers of financial services, most of which are sent through an electronic account. “The lessons of the pandemic, the lessons of the crisis should lead us to the fact that the activities of our institution on the online platform, which is as easy as possible for citizens to access and protect their rights, should make it possible to protect rights across the entire range of interests,” he said. And in this sense, the legal processes of the Financial Ombudsman Service’s work require some adjustment.

First of all, Voronin advised that the practice of appointing additional forensic examinations should be abandoned if the examination has already been carried out by the decision of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

“In addition, having created an institute for the out-of-court resolution of disputes and vesting us with certain powers, the legislator did not endow all the tools that the court has, even though we often serve as a substitute for a dispute court,” Voronin added. Thus, Article 333 of the Civil Code allows the courts, in the event of a clear non-compliance of the claim with actual damage, to reduce the penalty. “The Financial Ombudsman Service at the moment is deprived of this. And this has an undesirable effect due to the fact that even being in agreement with the decision of the Financial Ombudsman Service, the parties are forced to go to court,” explained the Chief Financial Ombudsman.

During the discussion, the issues of simplified bankruptcy of citizens and the possibility of the participation of the Financial Ombudsman Service in mediation within the framework of the created system were raised. According to Voronin, there is no structure in the Russian Federation, which would act on behalf of the citizen in bankruptcy and protect their rights. This issue requires discussion at the expert and state levels.
St. Petersburg International Legal Forum is an international event bringing together leading experts in the field of law. The forum was established in 2011 and is supported by the President of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. Over the years of its existence, SPBILF has become a leading global platform for discussing pressing issues facing the modern international legal community.